Resistbot, a bot designed to oppose the agenda of President Donald Trump, has been used by more than 730,000 people and has at least 1,000 users in each U.S. congressional district, creators of the bot told VentureBeat.
Launched in March, Resistbot began by sending users’ text messages as faxes to U.S. senators but has since added a number of new features, and next month Resistbot will begin to test its ability to carry out real-world political action.
During the congressional recess scheduled to take place throughout August, Resistbot will invite users to organize or participate in protests in districts where members of Congress refuse to attend town halls. Internally, the protests are being called “flash mobs.”
“History is littered with examples of where if you get 50 or 60 people to show up somewhere and protest, that can have an outsized impact,” Resistbot cofounder Jason Putorti told VentureBeat in a phone interview. “We send a lot of messages to Congress, probably 30,000 messages a day, but they all go to congressional offices where they sit and get tallied.”
Thus far, Resistbot has sent 3.5 million faxes to members of Congress and delivered nearly 20,000 letters, Putorti said. An engineer at AngelList, in 2014 Putorti helped create the civic engagement startup Brigade in partnership with others, including Napster cofounder Sean Parker.
The bot has also been active in special elections held since Election Day, most recently contacting 4,000 users in the Georgia’s 6th congressional district with voter registration and polling place info.
In addition to facilitating flash mobs, last month Resistbot began to tell people about town halls happening near them and started sending messages to state governors.
“The other thing we added was letters to the editor, where people can take the correspondence they send and turn them into letters to the editor so that it’s not just read by staffers in that closed office and filed away but it gets published where entire communities can see it. And since representatives are very media conscious and perception conscious, that’s the kind of thing that we hope again can have an outsized impact.”
Resistbot is managed by a core team of six, together with a team of dozens of volunteers. Part of the team — like Putorti and The Lean Startup author Eric Ries — live in San Francisco, while others live in Washington, D.C.; Connecticut; Texas; and elsewhere. Volunteers do things like help with letters to the editor or hand-deliver letters to Congress, Putorti said.