WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court on Thursday sided Facebook in a plet about unwanted text notifications you sent, rejecting a claim that the messages violated the federal ban on automatic calls.
The high court ruling for the social media giant based in Menlo Park, California, was unanimous.
Democratic legislators and consumer groups said the court opened an open gap in the law, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which would subject anyone with a cell phone to endless automated calls and messages.
The case was filed by a man who received text messages from Facebook notifying him that an attempt had been made to log in to his account from a new device or browser. The man, Noah Duguid, said he never had a Facebook account and never gave him his phone number. When he was unable to stop the notifications, he filed a class action lawsuit.
The 1991 Consumer Act prohibits abusive telemarketing practices. The law restricts calls made through an “automatic dialing system,” a device that can “store or produce phone numbers to call them, using a random or sequential number generator,” and then call that number.
The question for the court was whether the law covers equipment that can store and dial phone numbers, even if the equipment does not use a random or sequential number generator.
Judge Sonia Sotomayor wrote to the court that she does not.
Facebook spokesman Andy Stone said in an emailed statement: “As the Court acknowledged, the provisions of the law were never intended to prohibit companies from sending specific security notices and the The court’s decision will allow companies to continue working to keep their users’ accounts secure. ”
But Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., And Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-California, said in a joint statement that the court ignored Congress’ intent when it passed the law and will now allow “companies to ability to attack the public with an uninterrupted wave of unwanted calls and text messages, all day long. “
Lawmakers said they would introduce legislation to expressly ban the practice of Facebook.
“If magistrates find that their private cell phones are ringing non-stop from now until our legislation becomes law, they will only be to blame,” Markey and Eshoo said.
Facebook had argued that the lawsuit should be dismissed because Duguid had not claimed that Facebook sent randomly generated messages. Facebook said it sends targeted and individualized texts to numbers linked to specific accounts. A trial court accepted it, but an appeals court overturned that decision.
Facebook said it was possible that Duguid’s mobile number previously belonged to a Facebook user who chose to receive login notifications.
The case is Facebook v. Duguid, 19-511.