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Supreme Court rules Facebook text alerts not akin to robocalls

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The Supreme Court on Thursday sided unanimously with Facebook, ruling that a notification system the social media giant employs to alert users to suspicious logins does not run afoul of a federal law aimed at curbing robocalls and automated text messages.

The decision derailed a proposed class-action lawsuit that sought to hold Facebook liable under a 1991 law that imposed a general ban on automated calls.

The justices found that Facebook’s opt-in security notification feature fell outside the law, even though the program was found to have transmitted unwanted text messages.

The court rejected an argument from a recipient of unwanted Facebook texts, who claimed that the company’s messaging program amounted to an “autodialer,” which generally involves the use of a random or sequential number generator. 

“Expanding the definition of an autodialer to encompass any equipment that merely stores and dials telephone numbers would take a chainsaw to these nuanced problems when Congress meant to use a scalpel,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote for the court.

The class-action suit was brought by Noah Duguid, a man who received repeated Facebook text notifications alerting him to unusual login attempts, despite the fact that Duguid says he has never had a Facebook account.

Facebook said it was possible Duguid’s phone number was linked to Facebook alerts by the phone number’s previous owner.

A trial court agreed with Facebook’s request to toss the case, but a San Francisco-based federal appeal court reversed, prompting Facebook’s appeal to the Supreme Court. 

Updated at 1:05 p.m.

Tags Facebook robocalls Sonia Sotomayor Supreme Court text messages

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