Heads-up! Another FCC rulemaking process will soon be underway, and this time the Commission has its eyes set on mitigating malicious robotext campaigns.
Released on September 27th, the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking takes a similar approach to call blocking, requiring mobile service providers to block text messages from “invalid, unallocated, or unused numbers, and numbers on the DNO list,” since, as explained by the Commission, texts from these numbers are “highly likely to be illegal.”
While the FCC is steadfast in this position, it seeks comments from stakeholders on the who, what, and how of blocking these texts. For example, the Notice asks how service providers can ensure texts related to public safety can still reach cell phone users in emergency situations. One particular point of contention revolves around whether the proposal would cover Over-the-Top (OTT) text messaging, i.e., text messages sent through internet protocol channels through platforms like WhatsApp.
Under the proposal, STIR/SHAKEN, the widely-implemented protocol for verifying caller ID information in telephone transmission, could similarly be used to authenticate caller ID for text transmissions. The Commission plainly asks, “Would the current STIR/SHAKEN governance system be able to accommodate authentication for text messages, or would it need to be modified or a new governance system established?” Both the implementation and effectiveness of STIR/SHAKEN have received criticism, so the Notice asks interested parties to comment broadly on the technical feasibility and scope of applicability in the text messaging ecosphere.
The proposal was adopted nearly one year to the day after Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) wrote to FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel deploring the “surge of unsolicited text messages that are overtaking robocalls as a nuisance and a consumer protection threat.” The Chairwoman, in a news release regarding the Notice, agreed, stating that “The American people are fed up with scam texts…” The language of the notice hints that scam/spam texts may be a greater threat to consumer privacy than robocalls since consumers “read nearly all texts they receive, and do so nearly immediately.”
Text messages are a ubiquitous advertising technique with a proven track record of customer engagement. But be warned: new compliance obligations may be imminent.
Comments are due on or before November 10, 2022.