On Tuesday morning, Vip Vigneswaran, the campaign manager for Team Unite, along with four other students, received an automated text message telling him to vote for U of T Voice’s executive candidates.
The use of automated spam texting may be a violation of campaigning regulations. The Chief Returning Officer (CRO), Alex Flor declined to comment as she is looking into a number of complaints on the subject.
In an unsigned email, U of T Voice stated that they aimed to be strict about who was sent these texts, saying that they were limited to students who signed a form asking for more information — a point that Voice presidential candidate Yolen Bollo-Kamara reiterated in a Facebook comment on Vigneswaran’s screenshot of the text in question. In her comment, Bollo-Kamara posted a photo of Vigneswaran’s information on a Voice form, which he claims he does not remember signing.
In a subsequent interview, Vigneswaran said that he did sign up for information from Voice, but this is the first and only campaign information that he has received from the slate. “They didn’t say that I would receive texts,” he remarked.
Another recipient of the automated messages, Nav Nahal, said that she did not give out her number and has been unengaged throughout the campaigns. She added that the only reason she believes the UTSU would have her number is from her involvement with a separate campus group. “The only reason that UTSU would have my number is because I am a primary contact for Take Action – a recognized campus group” she said, adding: “I have not even been involved in any part of the campaign process.”
Other recipients also claimed they never signed up with Team Voice. Alex Parent, who says she is also not affiliated with any campaign, received an unsolicited text, which he and others referred to as a “robotext.” “I was not contacted or asked for consent to use my information,” he said, “and frankly I’m somewhat offended that they were both able to get my information and that I was unaware that they planned on sending me messages.”
The suggestion that texts were sent without express consent of students would contradict U of T Voice’s stated position on the subject, according to the unsigned email. Danielle Sandhu, an organizer with U of T Voice, said she was unaware of unsolicited texts being sent out.