Commentary

Trump Administration Opposes Facebook In Battle Over Birthday Texts

Facebook lost a significant battle in restrictions over robo-texting earlier this year, when a federal judge refused to dismiss a class-action complaint accusing the company of illegally sending people messages about their friends' birthdays.

U.S. District Court Judge Thelton Henderson rejected all of the company's arguments, including that the Telephone Consumer Protection Act violated its free speech rights. The social networking service recently asked Henderson for permission to appeal that ruling to the 9th Circuit.

Now, the Trump administration is siding against Facebook on that question. In papers filed late last week, the Justice Department says there's no reason to authorize an immediate appeal.

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"Facebook’s motion should be denied because Facebook cannot show substantial grounds for a difference of opinion on whether the TCPA is constitutional," the DOJ argues.

The battle dates to last year, when Florida resident Colin Brickman alleged that Facebook's birthday texts run afoul of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which prohibits companies from robo-texting people without their permission.

Facebook unsuccessfully raised several arguments, including that it has a constitutional right to send the texts. "Messages about a person’s birthday undoubtedly constitute speech entitled to First Amendment protection," Facebook argued in papers filed with Henderson in August.

The Obama administration weighed in against Facebook on that question last year, but the Trump administration had not gotten involved in this case until late last week.

But the DOJ said it agreed with Facebook's request to put the fight over birthday texts on hold until after another appellate court -- the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals -- has ruled on a separate dispute over robo-texting regulations.

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