FCC Acting Chief Seeks To Crack Down On Unwanted Robotexts

Citing a rise in complaints about robotexts, Federal Communications Commission acting chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said she has circulated a proposal to require wireless providers to block unwanted text messages.

“Enough with the bogus robotexts that try to trick consumers to share sensitive information and click on malicious links,” she said on Twitter. “I've asked my FCC colleagues to change our policies so we can kick this fraud off devices and stop these texts before they cause harm.”

The FCC says it received approximately 14,000 consumer complaints about unwanted text messages last year -- more than double the number in 2019.

The agency has previously passed anti-robocalling rules, but combatting robotexting could present new hurdles. 

One of those hurdles is technological: While recent anti-robocalling rules require carriers to use the authentication technology known as Stir/Shaken (standing for “secure telephone identity revisited" and "signature-based handling of asserted information using tokens,”), that technology reportedly is not effective at combating fraudulent text messages.

FCC efforts against robotexting could also face a legal roadblock stemming from the agency's 2018 vote to classify texting as an “information” service, and not a “telecommunications” service.

With that move, the agency theoretically empowered the carriers to block robotexts without the risk of running afoul of common-carrier rules that generally prohibit blocking.

But the FCC's classification decision may have also deprived the agency of the ability to pass regulations, given that the FCC's jurisdiction over information services is more limited than its jurisdiction over telecommunications services.

Some lawmakers, including Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut), praised Rosenworcel's decision to move forward with an attempt to regulate robotexting.

“Scammers are flooding consumers with illegal & obscene text messages -- adding to the scourge of robocalls,” he tweeted Monday.

Late last month, Blumenthal sent Rosenworcel a letter urging her to "take steps to stop unwanted text messages and crack down on carriers or services that are responsible for this deluge."

But he also noted at the time that text messages present "a more complex challenge" than robocalls.

Next story loading loading..