Consumerist has the story. Some random (but large) number of AT&T subscribers got SMS-spammed by their cell provider. Lame.
The NY Times quotes Mark Siegel, a spokesman for AT&T Wireless, saying that the message went to subscribers who had voted for “Idol” singers in the past, and other “heavy texters.” He said the message could not be classified as spam because it was free and because it allowed people to decline future missives.
Wow, how often have we heard that before? It's not spam because you can opt-out. I call B.S. Spam is about up front permission, not whether or not you can decline "further missives." If you sent it to a big ole bunch of people, and they didn't ask for it, it's spam. Period, end of story.
If AT&T was my cell provider, and they did that to me, I'd be switching cell providers right about now.
Consumerist points out that the FTC has already clarified that what AT&T did isn't illegal, since there's an opt-out and it isn't misleading.
All true, but it misses the point. The question isn't, "is this legal?" The question is, "is this spam." In the email world, ISPs block millions of perfectly legal messages every day, because the messages are spam, and because they are unwanted. Whether or not the messages were legal has very little to do with it.
Repeat after me: Spam is bad practice, even if done legally. If recipients think so (and they do), and ISPs think so (and they do), so what exactly is the problem here?