FCC Proposes Mandatory Blocking To Combat Text Spam

Aiming to curb text-message spam, the Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday proposed that wireless carriers block texts from certain numbers -- including ones that are invalid or unallocated.

“Unwanted text messages present the same problems as unwanted calls -- they invade consumer privacy, and are vehicles for consumer fraud and identity theft,” the agency stated in a notice of proposed rulemaking. “Texts can include links to well-designed phishing websites that appear identical to the website of a legitimate company and fool a victim into providing personal or financial information. Texted links can also load unwanted software, including malware that steals passwords and other credentials, onto a device.”

FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel added: “Scam text messaging has become a growing threat to consumers’ wallets and privacy. More can be done to address this problem and today we’re starting an effort to take a serious, comprehensive, and fresh look at our policies for fighting unwanted robotexts.”

The agency released a set of proposed new rules, including ones that would require carriers to “block text messages at the network level,” without asking consumers to either opt in or opt out, if those messages “purport to be from invalid, unallocated, or unused numbers, and numbers on the DNO [do not originate] list.” (The “do not originate” list is a collection of phone numbers associated with fraud.)

The agency says those texts “are highly likely to be illegal,” and is seeking comment on questions including whether such texts “represent a material fraction of unwanted text messages.”

The FCC is also seeking comment about whether to require carriers to implement caller ID authentication for text messaging.

Recent FCC 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”) to combat unwanted voice calls.

The agency said Tuesday hat the Internet Engineering Task Force is considering incorporating the Stir/Shaken framework into a robotexting authentication standard, and sought comment on what additional work would need to be completed to develop a standard to authenticate text messages.

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