Americans are fed up with robocalls, and John Oliver of Last Week Tonight wants to do something about it.
Despite the existence of a do-not-call list and tools like call-blocking apps and caller ID to slow down incoming call spam, these tools have barely made a dent in the flood of harassing phone calls most Americans receive on their phones, with no real recourse to stop them.
Unfortunately it just seems to be getting worse year after year – in 2018 alone robocall volume in the US increased by 56.8% to 48 billion calls, and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reports that about half the phone calls made to cell phones in the US in 2019 will be robocalls.
Enough’s enough of that, says John Oliver, comedian and host of TV show Last Week Tonight. He and his show are known for stunt activism to make a larger point about various societal and political ills in America.
Last Week Tonight has also gone after the FCC a few times in the past, namely in highlighting net neutrality and how it would affect the average internet user. The first time the show aired a net neutrality segment, the FCC’s website was DoSed into silence by angry viewers.
In the 10 March episode of Last Week Tonight, Oliver reported that 60% of the complaints registered to the FCC are about robocalls. So in his show’s tradition, Oliver announced that he’s hoping to spur the FCC into real action by giving them a taste of the annoyance of everyday Americans by subjecting the FCC commissioners with this message every 90 minutes:
Hi FCC! This is John from Customer Service. Congratulations! You’ve just won a chance to lower robocalls in America today. Haha… sorry, but I am a live person. Robocalls are incredibly annoying, and the person who can stop them is you! Talk to you again in 90 minutes. Here’s some bagpipe music.
So if robocalls are such a problem, what is the FCC doing about it?
In March 2018, FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai (then Chairman) was pleased when federal judges negated a 2015 law meant to put an end to robocallers, saying that law was “an example of the prior [Obama-era] FCC’s disregard for the law and regulatory overreach.” But just this February, Pai warned telecommunications companies that the FCC would be forced to intervene if the companies can’t figure out a plan to stop robocalls this year.
Pai and the FCC are urging telecoms companies to implement better caller authentication, but the companies have pushed back, saying they need more time. It’s not clear what the FCC would do if the telecoms do not comply, aside from levy fines.
In the meantime, “it turns out robocalling is so easy it only took our tech guy literally 15 minutes to work out how to do it,” said Oliver, just before hitting a comically oversized button to trigger the start of his anti-robocalling robocalling campaign.
17 comments on “John Oliver bombards the FCC with anti-robocall robocall campaign”
I love that show. I’m glad John Oliver is helping raise awareness to growing problems that should be getting addressed. Hopefully something good comes of this.
If robo calls were set up to call all telecom executives and their family members every 90 min for a couple months (and spoofing those same numbers), this would move. But, that isn’t the case. They make money whether the service is used, or abused. So why would they stop that.
Did you watch the segment? This is exactly what John Oliver has said he has enacted, in order to get change moving. He presumably has set up his own robocaller, targeting the FCC offices of five top FCC executives, including Ajit Pai..
Did YOU watch the segment or do you just not know the difference between Telecom Executives and the FCC? The first are heads of phone companies, the other is a government organization.
Are you saying there’s a difference?
Indeed I did. If one sets up calling a Telecom Exec, they’ll just use their company technology to identify and drop one’s robocalls. FCC execs won’t have that level of technology to protect them, so they are more likely to enact laws that will affect all Telecoms in the US.
Great start, I have been robo called constantly by the “HEALTH CARE QUALIFICATION” company I clicked on 1 to be placed on the do not call list. The rude lady on the other end promptly hug up before listening to my request. So I called back a message said to hit 1 to be put on the do not call list. As soon as I hit 1 a man answered and I told him I wanted to be put on their do not call list. But immediately he hung up! They have lots of different numbers they call from so I get several a day. They can be reached at [Number removed] feel free to call anytime, and constantly!
Wouldn’t be nice if you link to actual, original video, from his original channel? Why use this inferior, quality reduced video copy?
You’re right, it should have been a link to the official Last Week Tonight channel. Since that channel hasn’t published a copy of the skit we’ve removed the link, thanks.
I watched this particular episode and, while I agree with his disdain for robocalls, I thought his stunt was pointless. While the FCC hasn’t implemented a solution, and probably never will given the slow, unimaginative, bureaucratic pace of the federal government, solutions do currently exist. I use a service called RoboKiller, and spam calls went from about a half-dozen a day to zero. I highly recommend that service to everyone.
So does this mean John Oliver can be arrested and sued for robocalling? Praise be!
That’s the whole point of the segment. The FCC doesn’t go after robocallers at all because the lobbyists give them too much money. We’re trying to change that, but you’re too stupid to realize that the stunts he pulls on the show are for your personal benefit.
My wife got a call yesterday. Caller ID came up “North Korea”…..
Think, maybe, it was a robocall?
I finally got fed up with all the calls. Forwarded my land line to me cell and use “Should I Answer” app…HA! Works great. Someday the FCC will get some teeth and be able to enforce their own rules. But won’t be anytime in this lifetime.
If you post their numbers online, I will take a week off from work and call them every twenty minutes for one week.
The law maker and agencies should be getting all these calls and problems . Since they pass laws that allow them to do this to us. I am sure they don’t want it so why should me have to put up with it. None of it make any cents. Then they wonder why people attack them. A no brainer. It make me wonder why I served this country for 25 years and for what to get this. I quest that make me pretty dum.
Can’t imagine that would be too difficult to do… Odds are their home and mobile phone es are on some free package the company give execs and all pretty premium numbers ending in 000 or 007 or something like that. You could probably find out which one they deserve and just call them to find out.then what you need is an online PBX or texting package and send once to remove the dead ends… Then get to it. We don’t get a lot of these in Europe since they are illegal .. it’s it a fine or law suit… It’s a criminal conviction and jail time. But this has me thinking what scams Americans fall for if they can’t do anything about a phenomena that threatens the existence of the communications networks. There’s obviously money in there a bit.