The Road to Power Robocall Infestation—Can Racist Robocalls Be Stopped?
Robocalls are a pest of their own, but racist robocalls designed to spread hate and bigotry are the next level of propaganda filth that upset many Americans with foul language and concerning content.
Scott D. Rhodes gained notoriety with more than 6,000 robocalls made in 2018 through his white supremacist organization and website called Road to Power. After a massive number of disturbing robocalls that the residents of California, Georgia, Florida, Idaho, Virginia, Iowa, and New York received in 2018, telecom regulators identified Rhodes and Road to Power as the ones making the calls.
The perpetrators may be facing a fine of $13 million, which is what the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposed. Road to Power’s latest robocall rants addressed to the employees of Columbia University are not a part of the case that the FCC is building against the organization.
What Is a Robocall?
Robocalls are pre-recorded messages and not actual telephone conversations. Although they sometimes use robot voices, the method changed lately, and most robocalls feature recordings with human voices.
Callers use a computerized autodialer, which allows them to make thousands of calls in short intervals. The purpose of a robocall is to convey a message, so many institutions, businesses, and organizations use it as a common practice.
Commercial robocalls, designed to promote specific products and services, became quite popular lately because they are a cheap and easy way to telemarket. Unfortunately, many illegitimate businesses started using robocalls to scam people.
According to different reports, somewhere between 58 and 65 billion robocalls were made in 2019. With many Americans complaining that they are being harassed by robocalls, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and FCC teamed up with various law enforcement agencies to stop illegal robocalls on the national level.
This battle will not be easy, and it remains to be seen how successful the officials will be in fighting back against robocalls. We can only hope that this joint action will bring results because robocalls are turning into a national issue that affects every citizen.
What Is a Racist Robocall?
Various racist organizations started using robocalls, but none as successfully and disturbingly as Road to Power, an anti-Semitic and white-power media outlet based in Idaho. Scott D. Rhodes’ team found a perfect platform for their hate speech and got busy spreading their foul messages all over the States.
The goals of their robocall campaigns are:
- The support of right-wing candidates across the U.S.
- The slamming of non-white officials and candidates throughout the country
- Defending racist and white supremacy activists
- Disturbing the citizens and glorifying violence
Are Racist Robocalls Illegal?
The problem with robocalls is that not all of them are illegal. The calls that are trying to sell you something are unlawful if the company does not have your written permission to put you on the calling list.
Both the FTC and the FCC focused on commercial and scam calls, so the legislation mainly deals with telemarketers and financial fraudsters. Road to Power does not make unsolicited calls that have financial gain as a primary goal, so they managed to dodge the aforementioned government agencies for a while.
Many institutions and businesses use robocalls to pass relevant information. The most common legitimate robocalls that you can receive come from:
- The Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
- Educational institutions and campuses
- Pharmacies and physicians
- Political campaigns
Road to Power has been abusing the fact that robocalls for political campaign purposes are entirely legitimate. Since they started as promoters of U.S. Senate and Congress candidates, they were allowed to use this technology to reach out to people.
What is illegal is their offensive language and hateful messages that defame various public figures, provoke violence, and justify racism.
It was the content of the messages that prompted the FCC to propose the $13 million fine for Road to Power, and Scott D. Rhodes was given 30 days to respond to it. If the penalty is officially imposed and Rhodes fails to pay, the case will be turned over to the Department of Justice.
Whether Rhodes will face criminal charges regarding the robocalls is still unclear. The FCC officials did not want to comment on that because it is outside of the jurisdiction of the Commission.
The Road to Power Robocall Timeline
Road to Power found a perfect tool to spread their racist messages in the robocall technology. It allowed them to target Jewish communities and other citizens across the country in their attempt to promote right-wing politicians, defend murderers, as well as trash African Americans, Jews, and various minorities.
The calls were linked to the following persons and events:
- Patrick Little and Dianne Feinstein (U.S. Senate candidates)
- John Fitzgerald (U.S. Congress candidate)
- Andrew Gillum (candidate for Florida Governor)
- Stacy Abrams (candidate for Georgia Governor)
- Shooting of Antwon Rose
- Murder of Molly Tibbetts
- Killing of Hanna Heyer
Little and Feinstein
2018 was the pivotal year for Rhodes and his racist syndicate as they used robocalls to promote Patrick Little, a neo-Nazi candidate for Senate in the state of California. The calls aimed to discredit Little’s opponent Dianne Feinstein, who they accused of being an anti-American, Israeli citizen with a plan to undermine USA’s independent politics.
Around 50 Jewish institutions were the main target of Road to Power’s robocalls, while the organization claimed that they managed to deliver their message to 350.000 California residents.
Robocalls related to the campaign of John Fitzgerald, a famous Holocaust denier, called for restoring American democracy and stopping the Jewish takeover of the States. Road to Power claimed that Israel was responsible for the 9/11 attacks and that voting for Fitzgerlad meant that there would be no more wars that supported the Israeli agenda.
John Fitzgerald distanced himself from these robocalls and all messages that Rhodes and his organization conveyed via an aggressive robocall campaign that targeted various Californians.
When Andrew Gillum won the major party nomination for Governor in Florida in October 2018, Road to Power made 766 robocalls slamming the candidate. The content was particularly malicious and mimicked Gillum, speaking in a minstrel’s voice with monkeys and drums as a backdrop.
The pronunciation and grammar of the robocalls were deliberately wrong. The Jews were accused of being linked to the slave trade, but that they flip-flopped and started supporting African-American politicians as a part of a broader agenda.
Abrams and Winfrey
2018 November midterms inspired Rhodes to launch a series of robocalls imitating Oprah Winfrey, who was a supporter of Stacy Abrams, a candidate for Governor in Georgia. A male voice impersonating Oprah called for the killing of white racists and used words like Aunt Jemima and magical Negro quite often.
When Antwon Rose Jr. fell as a victim of police brutality in Pittsburgh in June 2018, Road to Power followed with an aggressive robocall campaign defending white police officers. The message stated that white cops were responsible for maintaining order and “animal control.”
Rose was unarmed at the time of his shooting, and he was only 17 years old. The calls offered false information regarding “black crime” statistics and urged the robocall victims to support white police officers involved in Rose’s murder.
Iowa residents were the next target of Rhodes’ racist robocalls. Following the murder of Molly Tibbetts by a Mexican immigrant, robocalls accused Latino Americans of having low I.Q. and being “bottom-feeding savages.”
Road to Power went so far as to impersonate Tibbetts, calling for the killing of Latino Americans. The victim’s family called for the respect of privacy and an end to anti-immigrant and racist rhetoric, but Road to Power failed to show common decency.
Students of Drake University were next in line to listen to the hateful, repulsive messages of Road to Power. These robocalls contained foul language and racist, anti-Semitic rants. The campus officials responded quickly, urging the victims not to listen to the disturbing content.
University officials assisted the law-enforcing agencies in gathering information regarding the “attacks.” The investigators stated that spoofing, which was used during this robocall campaign, is not always illegal.
According to the FCC, Road to Power made 2,023 robocalls related to the death of Heather Heyer, who was killed by James Fields Jr. during a peaceful protest against the Unite the Right rally in August 2017.
Fields, who pleaded guilty for the crime, ran his car into a group of peaceful demonstrators, who gathered to oppose the white-supremacist protests. Heyer died during the attack. Rhodes’ organization called for the liberation of James Fields using robocalls to harass and intimidate the general public.
How to Stop Racist Robocalls
Blocking robocalls altogether is not possible because some of them are legitimate. As annoying as they are, robocalls can occasionally be the quickest way to pass an urgent message. The problem is that such emergencies happen rarely, and an average American receives around two robocalls weekly.
What you can do is reduce the number of calls you get. The first step is to list your number on the National Do Not Call Registry, which was created to stop telemarketing or other spam calls. Unfortunately, only legitimate businesses and organizations respect the Do Not Call List. The good thing is that if your number is on it, you can be sure that all robocalls you receive are illegal.
Although there are the Do Not Call List exceptions, most telemarketers will refrain from calling you. In addition, you can do the following:
- Activate a call-blocking service offered by your phone carrier
- Install a third-party robocall blocker
- Install a call-blocking device
Blocking Racist Robocalls on Your Cell Phone
The FCC guide to robocalls instructs the telephone service providers to automatically add spam-call blocking tools to their packages as soon as possible. As of 2021, these tools will be mandatory.
All major carriers introduced spam call blockers already, and the technology is rather successful in preventing robocalls. All calls are filtered before they come down to you, and you can choose how you want to handle them. These are the options:
- The calls can be blocked
- The calls can be diverted directly to voicemail
- The calls can be flagged as potential spam on the screen
- The calls can be silenced and viewed as missed
In case you don’t have such a feature on your account, make sure you call your carrier and get it activated. Check out the table below to see what the most significant providers in the States offer to prevent robocalls.
|Call Filter (Premium available for $2.99 per month)|
Scam Block (Premium available for $3.99 per month)
Call Protect (Premium available for $3.99 per month)
Blocking Racist Robocalls on a Landline
The first thing you should do is check what kind of a home phone you have. Landlines nowadays can be:
- Digital (they use VoIP or Voice over Internet Protocol technology)
- Traditional (landlines with copper wires)
Digital phones offer the possibility to use most of the tools that you have on your cell. You should contact your telephone service provider and see what options are available.
In case you are stuck with a copper-wired telephone line, you should get a call blocker. This is an external device that you can attach to your phone, and it allows you to block approximately 100 numbers.
The problem is that the Road to Power and other spam callers change their numbers frequently, and it is almost impossible to keep track and add all of them to your blacklist. There is no efficient technology that can protect your home phone from robocalls yet.
Third-Party Robocall Blocking Apps
Third-party robocall blockers are apps that you can download for your mobile or digital home phone, and they are pretty effective in blocking spam calls. If you combine them with the tools we mentioned in the previous sections, you should be able to avoid most of the racist robocall scams.
The technology that robocall blockers use screens the calls you receive and checks if the numbers were used to make many calls in short intervals. All suspicious numbers will be blocked as they are probably robocalls.
You can check out the most popular apps at the moment in the table below.
Robocall Blocking App
How to Handle Racist Robocalls?
You should handle the calls from Road to Power as you would any other robocall—hang up as soon as you realize what it is. What you should not do is:
- Follow any instructions provided during the call because it can only lead to more calls
- Give away any details because the Road to Power may use it in their political activities
The annoying part is that you won’t be able to recognize the Road to Power robocall since the organization uses spoofing techniques to hide behind local and official government numbers.
Scott D. Rhodes and his team use an online platform to manipulate caller I.D. and trick you into thinking that the caller is local. This is a direct violation of the Truth in Caller ID Act, which strictly prohibits neighbor spoofing.
How to Report Scott D. Rhodes Robocalls
If you have been targeted by Road to Power or similar organizations, you should report the harassment as it will help bring such entities to justice. Since Road to Power is not calling you to scam for money, the FTC will not be able to assist. You should report to the FCC by visiting the Commission’s Consumer Complaint Center.
It is essential to report robocalls to your carrier as well because it will help in identifying as many spam callers as possible and assist in gathering evidence against organizations like Road to Power.
Can DoNotPay Help With Robocalls?
The answer is yes. DoNotPay can help you get up to $3,000 from suing callers that harass you with unsolicited calls. This means that you have to engage with the caller, but the process is entirely safe, and DoNotPay does all the work.
Next time you get a robocall, follow these steps:
- Log on DoNotPay through your web browser or iOS app
- Choose RoboRevenge
- Generate the DoNotPay virtual credit card
- Provide the details to the caller (they will be asking for your card details)
- Wait while DoNotPay extracts the caller’s information (the app will do it as soon as the caller tries to charge your card)
- Use the documents and instructions provided by DoNotPay to make a robocall lawsuit and get up to $3,000
You should not worry about security because the free virtual card is not real. It is a number that appears to the caller as an actual credit card, but it is not linked to any ultimate funding source. Once the caller tries to make an unauthorized transaction, their details will become visible to DoNotPay, and the app will use them to generate the documentation for a lawsuit.
The bad news is that Road to Power does not make robocalls for financial gain, so they will not be after your bank account or credit card details. At the moment, DoNotPay can assist only with robocalls that are related to financial scams.
What Else Can DoNotPay Do to Help?
DoNotPay created the world’s first robot lawyer that helps people who cannot afford fancy legal advisers. If you are struggling with unfair fines, unwanted subscriptions, paying your bills, or you would like to lower your bills, log on DoNotPay through your web browser or iOS app, and seek assistance.
Our virtual legal team is excellent at:
- Helping you sue people and companies in small claims court
- Scheduling a DMV appointment fast and easy
- Getting refunds for delayed or canceled flights
- Contesting parking tickets
- Dealing with bills you are unable to pay for
- Dealing with issues with credit cards
- Canceling subscriptions or memberships
- Disputing traffic tickets
- Jumping the phone queue when getting in touch with customer service reps
- Fighting speeding tickets
- Getting revenge on other robocalls