The Supreme Court today ruled in favor of Facebook, which restricted the scope of the 1991 U.S. law, which prohibits certain types of automatic reporting and writing. The court found that the anti-robot calling law only applies to systems that can generate random or sequential phone numbers. Therefore, under the law, systems lacking this feature will not be considered as automatic dialers, even if they can store numbers and automatically send calls and text messages.
Proponents say the ruling will make it more difficult to block automatic calls and text messages, which could release a large number of new robot calls.
The National Consumer Law Center (NCLC) stated that the ruling “removed the most important protective measures to prevent unnecessary mechanical telephone calls: The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) prohibits automatic calls without the consent of the called party. Call and send text messages to mobile phones”
Margot Saunders, a senior consultant for the organization, said: “The company will use automatic dialers that are not covered by the narrow definition of the Supreme Court to inject more unnecessary robocalls and automatic texts into our mobile phones. The NCLC also stated that the court’s decision “explained the definition of automatic dialers in the statute in a narrow sense, so that the statute only applies to few or none of the automatic dialers in use today.”
Facebook system is not an automatic dialer
The Facebook case was decided on grammatical issues, because the court had to determine exactly what Congress meant in the key part of the TCPA. The law imposes restrictions on calls made using the “automatic telephone dialing system” and defines the term as “equipment with the following capabilities: (A) Use a random or sequential number generator to store or generate the phone number to be called; And (B) dial such a number.”
This sentence means that Noah Duguid (Noah Duguid) sued Facebook for the core content. Today’s court decision restated how the case started:
In 2014, interviewee Noah Duguid received several login notification text messages from Facebook, reminding him that someone tried to access the Facebook account associated with his phone number from an unknown browser. But Duguid never had a Facebook account and never gave Facebook his phone number. Unable to stop the notice, Duguid filed a recognized class action lawsuit against Facebook. He claimed that Facebook violated TCPA because it maintains a database of phone numbers and programmed its devices to send to these numbers every time an unrecognized device or web browser accesses the associated account Automatic text messages.
Facebook countered: “Duguid failed to claim that Facebook used an automatic dialer because he did not claim that Facebook sent text messages to randomly or sequentially generated numbers. Instead, Facebook argued that Duguid claimed that Facebook would target and personalize text. Send to the digital account associated with the specific link”, today’s ruling said.
In 2017, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California agreed to Facebook and dismissed Duguid’s case. However, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit rejected the ruling, holding that even if the system does not use random or sequential generators to store numbers, as long as it has the ability to “store numbers to”, the system can become an automatic dialer. Known as “and “automatically dial this type of number”.
The Supreme Court decided to hear the case and pointed out that the decision of the other Circuit Court of Appeals was different from that of the Ninth Circuit Court. There was a conflict between the Court of Appeals over whether the automatic dialer must be able to generate random or sequential phone numbers. Today, the Supreme Court overturned the decision of the Ninth Circuit.
Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s opinion for the court stated:
The question facing the court is whether the definition includes devices that can “store” and dial phone numbers, even if the device “does not”[e] To qualify for the “Automatic Telephone Dialing System”, the device must have the ability to store phone numbers using random or sequential generators or generate phone numbers using random numbers. Or serial number generator.
The court found that Facebook’s notification system is not an automatic dialer because it “neither stores nor generates’numbers using random or sequential number generators’.” Although Judge Samuel Alito agreed with the court’s Verdict, but all nine judges agreed with the verdict.
Grammatical rules of judicial interpretation
Sotomayor’s comments explained the grammatical issues that the case turned to:
We start with the text. Congress defines automatic dialing procedures based on what it must do (“store or generate the phone number to be dialed”) and what it must do (“use a random or sequential number generator”). The definition uses a familiar structure: a list of verbs, followed by a modifier clause. According to traditional grammatical rules, “[w]If there is a direct, parallel structure involving all nouns or verbs in a series, the modifier at the end of the list “usually applies to the entire series.” The courts usually adopt this interpretative rule, which is often referred to as the “series qualifier standard.” “This standard usually reflects the most natural sentence reading. Imagine if a teacher declared that “students are not allowed to use online homework help websites to complete or check any grade assignments.” It would be strange to read the rule as prohibiting students from completing their homework completely with or without online support.
According to the law of automatic telephone, “Serial qualifier Canon recommends using “random number or sequential number generator” to qualify the previous verb “store” and “generate”,” Sotomayor wrote. The judge believes that this grammatical interpretation is the “most natural structure” and is supported by other texts in the law.
The opinion said: “The legal background proves that TCPA’s automatic dialer definition does not include devices that do not use random or serial number generators.” “Congress found that the automatic dialer technology is harmful because the automatic dialer can make emergency calls randomly or press all keys. Sequentially numbered telephone lines are bundled on one entity. [the TCPA] Better match the scope of TCPA to these specific issues. On the other hand, Duguid’s explanation will cover any device that stores and dials phone numbers. “
The court also said: “It is almost unreasonable to classify all devices capable of storing and dialing phone numbers (including almost all modern mobile phones) as automatic dialers.”
Congress may trigger anger as a ruling
In 1991, one of the authors of the TCPA, US Senator Edward Markey (Edward Markey) and California Representative Anna Eshoo (Anna Eshoo) issued a joint statement, calling the ruling “disastrous.”
The legislator said: “Today, the Supreme Court discarded years of precedent, a clear legislative history and necessary consumer protection to issue a ruling that would be disastrous for everyone who owns a mobile phone in the United States. “It is clear that when TCPA was introduced, Congress wanted to ban dialing from the database. By narrowing the scope of TCPA, the court allowed companies to attack the public with an uninterrupted wave of useless calls and text messages, 24/7.”
Markey and Eshoo stated that they “plan to introduce legislation soon to amend the TCPA, correct court mistakes and protect consumers.”
Consumer Reports urged Congress to act quickly. Consumer Reports said: “The court ruled that the technology used by Facebook to send automated texts to its users involved a loophole in the definition, despite the lax reading of the punctuation in the definition of’automatic dialer’.” “As a result, use The technology releases a potentially unlimited number of calls and text messages without prior consent, and there is no mandatory way for consumers to stop them.”