The US Supreme Court filed a lawsuit on Thursday accusing Facebook of violating the federal anti-robot calling law, making it easier for companies to harass consumers via phone calls or text messages.

The justices supported Facebook in the 9-0 ruling of Judge Sonia Sotomayor, arguing that the text messages sent by social media companies did not violate the 1991 federal law, the “Telephone Consumer Protection Act” (TCPA) .

The case highlights the challenges faced by justices in applying outdated laws to modern technology. The ruling triggered a call for the US Congress to update the law, which was enacted three years ago to curb the abuse of telemarketing by banning most unauthorized roaming calls.

Democratic Senator Edward Markey and Democratic Representative Anna Eshoo said in a joint statement: “By narrowing the scope of TCPA, the court enables companies to make unwanted calls and calls 24/7. SMS to attack the public,” stated.

The court ruled that Facebook’s behavior (sending text messages without consent) did not meet the technical definition of behavior prohibited by the law, which was formulated before the rise of modern mobile phone technology.

The lawsuit was filed in California federal court in 2015 by Noah Duguid, a resident of Montana, who stated that Facebook sent him many automated text messages without his consent. The lawsuit alleges that Facebook, headquartered in Menlo Park, California, violated the “Telephone Consumer Protection Act” restrictions on the use of automatic telephone dialing systems.

Facebook said that security-related messages are triggered when users try to log in to their account from a new device or Internet browser, and are related to the user’s mobile phone number. Facebook said in a statement: “As recognized by the court, the law is by no means prohibiting companies from sending targeted security notices. The court’s decision will allow companies to continue their efforts to keep user accounts safe.”

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Duguid’s lawyer Sergei Lemberg (Sergei Lemberg) said that as long as they use technology similar to Facebook, anyone can be exempted from liability under the law.

Lemberg added: “This is a disappointing ruling for people who own a mobile phone or value privacy.”

In this case, the lawsuit asserts that Facebook’s system for sending automatic text messages is similar to the traditional automatic dialing system (called an automatic dialer) used to send robocalls.

Sotomayor wrote in the ruling: “Duguayde had a dispute with Congress, and Congress did not define the automatic dialer as resilient as he wanted.”

The law requires that the equipment used must use a “random number or serial number generator,” but the court held that Facebook’s system “does not use such technology,” Sotomayor added.

Duguid said that although he is not a Facebook user and has never used it, Facebook repeatedly sends account login notifications via text messages to his mobile phone. Despite many efforts, Duguid said that he could not prevent Facebook from turning him into “bot text”.

Facebook responded that Duguid was most likely assigned a phone number that had previously been associated with Facebook users who opted to receive notifications.

A federal judge dropped the lawsuit, but the San Francisco-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reinstated it in 2019. The Ninth Circuit has extensive knowledge of the law, saying that it not only prohibits devices that automatically dial randomly generated numbers, but also devices that have stored numbers that are not randomly generated.

The Federal Insurance Credit Union National Association said the decision “to narrowly interpret the automatic dialer as a victory for the credit union industry.”

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The association said in a statement: “We have been working hard to maintain this clarity to ensure that credit unions can provide their members with important, time-sensitive financial information without worrying about violating TCPA and facing trivial matters. litigation.”

Thomson Reuters 2021 ©


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