Special interests protest Congressional captcha

The First Amendment guarantees “the right of the people . . . to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” Among other things, this means you have the right to contact your menbers of Congress and express your views.

This right, however, does not extend to automated computer programs, as much as some special interest lobbying groups would like it to.

Some members of Congress have begun to add to their Web sites’ contact pages a logic puzzle, which requires the person to answer a simple question, such as “Please type the number 3 into this box,” before the e-mail will be allowed. The measure, intended to combat automated posting of messages, has Congressional staffers relieved, and the American Civil Liberties Union furious.

Officials told Roll Call that the measure frees up Congressional staffers to answer legitimate constituent e-mail more quickly and effectively, while weeding out mass automated messages.

Lunatics like Common Cause and the ACLU don’t see it that way, however. They think they should be allowed to e-mail bomb Congress whenever they want with whatever they want.

“E-mail has become the preferred way to contact your representatives in today’s society,” said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office. “It’s ironic that in the year when ethics issues have plagued Congress because of relationships with high-paid lobbyists, instead of shutting down that gravy train, Members of Congress have decided to shut their constituents out.”

“Yes, spam is a problem, but mass emails from groups of constituents is not a problem. It’s democracy,” said Ed Davis, vice president of policy and research for Common Cause. The new technology “is blocking communication from the people who vote them into office,” he said.

Oh, here we go again with the collectivist crap. This isn’t blocking communication from anyone who wants to communicate with their representative. They’re still quite free to send an e-mail to their representative, just not through the special interest group’s Web site. They’ll have to actually find out who their Representative and Senators are and contact them directly. The horror!

Let’s get a few facts straight. The Washington Post reported: “On a single day last week, of the 8,262 times the logic puzzle was viewed in the House, only 1,568 people answered it and moved on to send a message — a 19 percent success rate.” So what? I viewed it several times and didn’t send a message. Why not? On the same page were phone numbers and mailing address information. Perhaps that’s what the other 81 percent were looking for. Not everyone in America is totally in love with this newfangled Internet thing just yet.

Please don’t try to tell me American education is so bad that 81 percent of people can’t copy a number into the text box. I’ll believe a lot of things, but I won’t buy that one just yet.

The truth is, of the various types of captcha software out there, Congress has miraculously chosen the least intrusive and most accessible. It works with every browser and it’s accessible to those with disabilities — except, perhaps, those who can’t read or write, but in most cases those people won’t be visiting a Web site anyway.

And after searching all day, I couldn’t find a single person who said the logic puzzle would prevent them from sending a message to their representative.

It’s quite effective, however, at shutting down the gravy train of high-paid lobbyists who want to push their interests on Congress with automated messages. And that’s the real reason they’re complaining.

So we have a nice technological measure which doesn’t really inconvenience any constituents, even ones with disabilities, preserves the right of the people to contact their Members of Congress, and shuts down some of the more wacko groups out there who have been e-bombing Congress with garbage.

What’s the problem?

One thought on “Special interests protest Congressional captcha

  • October 4, 2006 at 10:19 am

    I’ve successfully created a program that lets me send messages to these officials. Its fairly simple. They complicate it firther, I’ll move it up a notch. Nothing is impossible in web technology. They think they can stop legitimate messages from their contituents from reaching them. This should show them 🙂

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