Italy's premier Berlusconi SMS-spams voters' mobile phones

Italy's Berlusconi government spammed the cellphones of millions of citizens with text-messages about voting procedures for tomorrow's EU and local elections. Some call it an unprecedented invasion of mobile privacy for political control. Others argue it's a smart way for the administration to combat absenteeism and ensure that more of Italy's voting public shows up at the polls. Either way, unsolicited text messages don't grow on trees — the stunt cost around $7M US, and critics want to know who paid for it.

The message, received on cell phones on Thursday and Friday, carried the sender line of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, Premier Silvio Berlusconi's office. The message detailed when the polls will be open and what documents citizens need to vote.

"Finally we have recourse to a tool like the text message that is now in everyday use to bring the state closer still to its citizens," said Technology Minister Lucio Stanca. But the political opposition branded the strategy as a political tactic. The government "is trying every subterfuge to recover votes. It's alarming that privacy is violated in such a sensational way," said opposition lawmaker Francesco Martone.