The Supreme Court has agreed to hear Facebook's defense after an appeals court found it violated anti-robocalling rules. The court will examine whether Facebook's automated alarm text is considered an "automatic phone dialing system", which will clarify the definition of illegal phone spam.
Facebook has been sued in 2015 by Noah Duguid, a non-Facebook user who complained that he received unsolicited text messages from the website. In the warning messages, Duguid was told that someone was trying to access their non-existent Facebook account and that they could not get Facebook to stop sending. Duguid argued that Facebook violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which is designed to protect Americans from unwanted automatically dialed calls.
Facebook said the texts were sent in error, and it was claimed that its automated system was functionally similar to a standard smartphone, so a decision against it could make ordinary phone calls illegal. The Court of Appeal of the Ninth Instance disagreed with this logic and Facebook's texts clearly fit into the "automated, unwanted and unwanted" category of telephone messages. The Supreme Court will settle the issue definitively.
This case will complement another recent Supreme Court robocalling decision. Earlier this week, the court lifted a legal exemption for government collection agencies and circumvented an attempt to lift the ban. Facebook raised a similar issue in its petition, but the court will instead focus on the definition question.
If Facebook ultimately loses its case, it may be necessary to pay compensation to any user who has received unsolicited messages within a period of several years. The Supreme Court decision can also affect which automated calls are considered legal. But robocalls are increasing regardless of the laws directed against them – so it may not make much difference to many people.