MySpace, Twitter and Facebook have been hit with lawsuits for allegedly violating a consumer protection law by sending a final, confirmatory SMS message to users after they opted out of receiving such texts.
In all cases, the last SMS message confirmed that the users no longer wished to receive SMS notifications, according to court papers. The consumers allege that these final messages were unlawful under the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which prohibits the use of automated telephone dialing systems to make unsolicited calls.
That statute provides for damages of up to $1,500 for each intentional violation, and $500 for negligent violations. Several courts have recently ruled that the law applies to unsolicited text messages, as well as phone calls.
The lawsuit against Facebook was brought last week by California resident Roy Lo, who alleges that he activated an option to receive SMS messages on April 1 but withdrew his consent three days later by responding "stop" after receiving a text message.
"In response to receiving this revocation of consent, defendant then immediately sent another, unsolicited, confirmatory text message to plaintiff's cellular telephone," the complaint alleges.
California resident Shahriar Noorpavar made similar allegations in a separate lawsuit against MySpace. The lawsuit against Twitter was filed by two Web users, Drew Moss and Sahar Maleksaeedi, both of California, who made nearly identical allegations.
All of the cases were brought as potential class-actions in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.
Internet law expert Eric Goldman, a professor at Santa Clara University, criticized the lawsuits as potentially detrimental to society at large. Even if the consumers can establish a violation of the law, he says, "the loss of unsubscribe confirming messages probably isn't in the public interest."
Cyberlaw specialist Venkat Balasubramani of Seattle adds that he expects judges to be skeptical of these cases. "I can't see the court giving much traction to claims based on texts which confirmed that no more texts would be sent," he says.