Attention, Lazy Garbage: This Bot Will Insult You Until You Vote

The text messages increase in frequency—and aggression—through Election Day, until a recipient confirms that they've voted.

The text messages increase in frequency—and aggression—through Election Day, until a recipient confirms that they've voted. Shutterstock


Connecting state and local government leaders

The free service, a product of the nonprofit Fight For The Future, sends daily text messages that urge you—impolitely—to go vote.

If you’re procrastinating on filling out your mail-in ballot or dreading the thought of donning a mask to head to the polls, one national nonprofit might have a solution: free insults, delivered via text message, every day until you vote.

The insult bot, a product of Fight For the Future, a nonpartisan group that advocates for digital rights, launched Wednesday, a mere six days before the Nov. 3 general election. It’s meant specifically as an aggressive last-minute push for procrastinators with a sense of humor who will appreciate—and hopefully be motivated by—a little sarcasm mixed in with frequent reminders to get up and vote already.

“We wanted to do something that would stand out a bit,” said Caitlin Seeley George, the organization’s campaigns director. “There might be some people out there who really do need this kind of constant, poking reminder to make sure they vote, and we thought that, especially for young people, if we added in some humor and some snark, we might reach them in a different way.”

The service, free other than standard data and messaging rates, sends periodic texts that “will increase in intensity and aggression through Election Day, until the recipient confirms that they’ve voted," according to a news release. The texts encourage voting in general and do not endorse specific policies or candidates, and their content ranges from name-calling to mild profanity, all peppered with basic voting information (how to look up your local polling place, for example). 

“We’re sending multiple messages per day and trying to splice in some information, but otherwise, it’s a lot of humor,” Seeley George said. “There’s a little bit of cursing, so this is definitely not for people who are uncomfortable with that. We call people lazy, we call them lazy garbage. We call them sea cucumbers.”

The group, she added, has no specific beef with sea cucumbers.

“We all love a good sea cucumber,” she said. “But, you know, they’re also slow and lazy.”

A sea cucumber, not voting (Shutterstock)

If a recipient never responds or unsubscribes from the messages, the bot will follow up after Election Day to confirm whether they voted. The goal is to increase participation in the election, even if it’s just by a few voters—because sometimes, that’s all it takes to tip a race, Seeley George said. 

“We know that some elections are determined by a handful of votes, so we think it’s worth it if we can get any additional people,” she said. “Our hope is that this catches people’s attention, and a lot of people sign up and share with their friends.”

Kate Elizabeth Queram is a staff correspondent for Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.

NEXT STORY: What the Rise of Digital Handouts on Venmo and Cash App Says about Our Fraying Social Safety Net