Bulk-SMS Become a Channel of Illegal Campaigning on Election Silence Day

20.03.2019
To clear SMS-traffic of illegal election propaganda, the mobile marketing service operator Devino Telecom blocked 42,887 messages breaching the Law “On Basic Guarantees of Electoral Rights and Rights to Participate in a Referendum of the Citizens of the Russian Federation” and the Law “On the Election of the President of the Russian Federation”.

The illegal SMS disseminated during the election silence day (effectively it lasted two days – 13 and 14 September) were dominated by campaign office messages agitating for their candidates and messages promising voters monetary compensation in exchange for their votes of support.

Devino Telecom got down to preparing for traffic filtration two weeks before the elections. The corporate moderators made up a stop-list of words for message moderation. The list included the full names of candidates for the Moscow State Duma Deputies and regional Governours. Words related to the voting procedure were also entered on the list as suspicious. Among them were “choice”, “vote” and “commission”.

“On the election silence day, we blocked absolutely all agitation messages”, said Danila Shmelev, CEO Devino Telecom.

Devino Telecom uses a two-tier pre-moderation system which helps to capture messages with disputable content, while automatic filters often block messages mistakenly. At the first stage all traffic in Devino Telecom undergoes software filtration. Messages are analyzed for presence of data from the stop-lists. The second stage has to do with a dual-line moderation meaning that all messages marked by the filter as suspicious are reviewed by the moderators. The decision on each individual message is taken by two moderators. If their opinions differ, a third moderator comes in, and the final decision is taken by the majority. This approach ensures that bulk-messaging is free of all illegal messages and spam.

Examples of messages which were blocked over the period from 13 (election silence) to 14 September:

General mobilization! All to elections! For Russia, for *****!

Shalom Fira! I remind you that a Jew must not stay away from the society and be indifferent to their environment. Don’t forget to vote today for the candidate for the Voronezh region Governour!

Dear Mrs. Ivanova, today is a significant day! Take part in the elections of Governour *****, and we will give you a Certificate of a Responsible Citizen for 2,000 rubles for car repair! After casting your vote send your full name and your polling station number to ***** until 30 September. In return we will send you a Certificate!

Dear observers, according to our exit polls Katz and Soroka have an equal number of votes as of now. Please, be vigilant! Struggle for every vote. Good luck to all of us.

On 14 September, the Election Day, support candidate ***** - No.1 in the ballot paper. Let us be united in supporting our reliable partner, friend and a highly honest person who wishes to contribute to the prosperity of our Territory!

Bear no more! Want to live better? 14.09 vote FOR *****!

If you vote for *****, he will have more chances of helping you. There is ballot tampering so your vote is very important! Your polling station is in School No.8. Thank you.

Hello! Tomorrow there’ll be elections to the Pushkino Council of Deputies! Our canvasser talked to you and left you our leaflet with candidate ***** personal phone number. If necessary, don’t hesitate to call him in person on this number.

NOTE

According to the Law “On the Election of the President of the Russian Federation”, the following shall be deemed as pre-election campaigning: calls to vote for a candidate, candidates or against him/her (them); expression of preference for a certain candidate, political party, i.a. indication which candidate a voter will vote for; description of likely consequences in case a certain candidate is (not) elected; dissemination of information with express domination of facts about a certain candidate (candidates) or political parties accompanied with positive or negative comments; dissemination of information about a candidate’s activity other than his/her professional occupation or official duties; activity encouraging a positive or negative voters’ attitude to a certain candidate or political party, which nominated a candidate, during the campaigning period. For the purposes of these Rules, the campaigning period shall be deemed a period starting from the moment of candidate nomination until 00.00 hr. local time one day prior to the Election Day (i.e. up to and including 02 March 2012). These Rules shall apply only during the campaigning period.