I though Amnesty’s SMS appeals thing sounded cool, so I signed up. But how on earth can this work? The messages are so innane, so totally untrustworthy in their simplicity, I mean, look at today’s:

Frances Newton skal henrettes i Texas 1. desember. Hun hevder hun er uskyldig. Stans henrettelsen! Send: APPELL <ditt navn> til 1960 n?•! Les mer: www.amnesty.no (Frances Newton is to be executed in Texas on December 1. She claims she’s innocent. Stop the execution! Send: APPEAL <your name> to 1960 now! Read more: www.amnesty.no)

Screenshot of Amnesty.no's page about Frances NewtonThe first times I sent the appeal, paying Amnesty three kroner for the message, not really knowing how my text message supposedly changes things. But getting one of these every week I’ve become callous. The brevity of the claim is offensive: she claims to be innocent? I think the death penalty is barbaric, but how is sending a text message going to stop that? Usually I’m out somewhere and I don’t follow the link they give you. Today I’m home sick so I did, and sure enough, Frances Newton is (apparently) going to be executed based on hearsay and not on solid evidence, she didn’t have appropriate legal representation, this is quite probably an injustice, a murder of justice. But the SMS form leaves me cold, critical, unable to connect with this.

I think Amnesty has made at least one crucial mistake: they send out the SMSes with no sender. So while my phone usually tells me “Message from Beatrice” or, if the sender’s not in my address book, “Message from +4795021453” the messages from Amnesty say “Message from . .” Now would you trust that? I mean, rationally, I know I’ve signed up, I do have a lot of respect for Amnesty, I’m a member, the URL lets me read more about the issue, but the coldness of that “. .” instead of a sender name or number upsets me anyway.

When I first signed up I had an idea that it would be so quick doing this by SMS, and I’d make up for all those hand-written letters I’ve always meant to send in Amnesty’s campaigns but that I’ve never, ever actually written. After receiving at least 50 messages like this I wonder how on earth SMSes are in any way equivalent to carefully thought out, handwritten letters. Will it actually make any difference? Is it just a way for Amnesty to make a little extra money off premium SMSes? I also imagined there’d be a smart mobs element to it. But there are no connections forged here, no new possibilities. It’s just an extra channel for advertising.

I’m happy to support Amnesty, but these messages make me feel as though they think I’m stupid. They’re too simplified. And I end up trusting Amnesty less. I’m sure that’s not what they intended. I wonder if others react as I do?

Oh dear. A woman to be executed. Maybe innocent, maybe not. It’s wrong to kill people. No matter what they’ve done. I guess I’ll send the SMS after all. Just in case.

6 thoughts on “send APPEAL to 1960

  1. Eivind

    Thank you for writing down my thoughts so well!

    I first sent one message after seeing an ad at Oslo Sentralstasjon, and then I sent the next few times, but none after that.

    It’s simply so impersonal and untrustworthy, as you say. And I don’t really know what they can do about it either..

  2. DeAnn

    I have almost no idea what any of this means. And I definitely don’t know what the message said! I’m clueless, apparently.

  3. Lars

    Good point about the lack of a sender for the SMSes. Courtesy is so important to Amnesty, I can’t imagine why they didn’t see that. As to how the SMS compares to the carefully thought out, handwritten letters: It doesn’t. Your name is added to a carefully thought out, typed letter that Amnesty sends. Like signing a petition. Who can tell what works best? You could always do both…

  4. Lars

    Latest news: The execution has been postponed.

  5. francis s.

    Well, I just read in the NYTimes that she got a reprieve. So maybe the SMS did something after all? Who knows…

  6. Lene

    I get Appell-sms’s from 1960 very often too!! Do u know if these kind of sms charges you ?

    Jeg s nettopp p tv2 hjelper deg, om sÂnne type meldinger som blir sendt ut til ufrivillige mottakere. Disse kan ofte koste fra 15kr og oppover pr.sms. Ble slitt smÂredd her, i og med at jeg fÂr slike meldinger sÂpass ofte!

    Vet noen hvordan man kan “si opp” ?

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