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Conservative pranksters face $5 million proposed fine over robocalls

Conservative pranksters face $5 million proposed fine over robocalls


The FCC weighs major fine against Jacob Wohl

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A phone screen showing an incoming robocall
Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge

On Tuesday, the Federal Communications Commission proposed an over $5 million fine against conspiracy theorists and conservative activists John Burkman and Jacob Wohl for making hundreds of robocalls spreading 2020 election misinformation.

In its proposal, the FCC said that the agency is weighing a $5,134,500 fine against Burkman and Wohl for making over 1,100 robocalls in violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, or TCPA. The violating pre-recorded calls told voters that their personal information would be “part of a public database” that would be used by “police departments to track down old warrants and be used by credit card companies to collect outstanding debts” if they chose to vote by mail in the 2020 election.

It’s the largest TCPA fine the FCC has ever proposed, according to a press release from the agency Tuesday. 

Last October, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel filed four felony charges against Burkman and Wohl, accusing the pair of discouraging Detroit residents from voting in the 2020 election. Specifically, the case accuses them of targeting voters in Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Illinois in around 85,000 calls last August. According to the Michigan Attorney General’s Office, the calls claimed to come from “Project 1599, a civil rights organization” founded by the pair and targeted areas with large populations of Black voters. 

“We remain committed to defending democracy against misinformation spread in an attempt to undermine our free and fair elections,” Nessel said in a statement earlier this year.

A trial date has not been set.