The Women’s March on Washington event that took place on 21 January 2017 far exceeded the expectations of its organizers, drawing approximately 500,000 participants in Washington, D.C., and perhaps two million more in other cities across the U.S. and around the world.
Not long after the marches concluded, word spread that march organizers were asking attendees to text “COUNT ME” to 89800 in order for their presence at that event to be tallied:
— Sriya Sarkar (@sriyasarkar7) January 23, 2017
Various versions of the exhortation were shared by celebrities as well as satellite Women’s March events, some of them subsequently deleted:
Adding to the confusing the matter was a tweet published and then deleted by the official Women’s March account, disavowing the “text 89800” message:
The Seattle Privacy Coalition took note of the viral message and expressed reservations about its legitimacy:
That tweet linked to marketing communications company TxtWire’s “89800 Mobile Terms & Conditions” page, which is the most detailed information we’ve been able to locate about the texting 89800 program so far:
The program sends subscribers alerts regarding promotions, coupons, and time sensitive deals from local businesses.
To opt-in, Text DEALMEIN to 89800. 8 msgs/mo. Msg&data rates may apply. To opt-out, Text STOP to 89800. An opt-out confirmation message will be sent back to you. To request support, Text HELP to 89800 or email us at email@example.com.
The effort appears to be spearheaded by the It’s Time Network, a group professing to be an “inclusive community of people and organizations working collaboratively to accelerate the full empowerment of women and girls in order to achieve gender equity, evolve democracy and build fair economies that regenerate the Earth.” That organization began promoting the “text 89800” initiative on 21 January 2017:
— It’s Time Network (@ItsTimeNetwork) January 21, 2017
In a subsequent series of tweets, the group acknowledged that the effort was undertaken independently by the It’s Time Network and not specifically by Women’s March organizers:
— It’s Time Network (@ItsTimeNetwork) January 22, 2017
We have been unable to locate any march organizers officially endorsing the “text COUNT ME to 89800” message campaign. Although some satellite marches retweeted information about the program, details such as who was attempting to collect a headcount and for what purposes remained unclear.
We have contacted the official Women’s March via e-mail and social media to inquire about the text campaign but have not yet received a response.