FCC: Mobile Wireless Carriers May Be Required to Block Illegal Robotexts

According to a press release issued on Monday, Acting Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel put a proposed rulemaking designed to require wireless carriers to block robotexts. The potential move responds to a dramatic rise in one “the latest scamming trends,” the FCC says. Unwanted robotexts are illegal messages that often surreptitiously solicit personal information or entice recipients to click on malicious links.

The FCC explains that in 2020, it received approximately 14,000 consumer complaints over unwanted text messages, a figure up almost 146% from the previous year. So far in 2021, the agency has already received more than 9,800 consumer complaints about bothersome and deceptive texts.

Additionally, data from other sources confirms that robotexts are a growing problem. The FCC points to a data point from RoboKiller, a mobile app that blocks spam calls, as described by Crunchbase, reporting that 7.4 billion spam texts were deployed in March 2021.

“In a world where so many of us rely heavily on texting to stay connected with our friends and family, ensuring the integrity of this communication is vitally important,” Acting Chairwoman Rosenworcel said in a statement. “We’ve seen a rise in scammers trying to take advantage of our trust of text messages by sending bogus robotexts that try to trick consumers to share sensitive information or click on malicious links.  It’s time we take steps to confront this latest wave of fraud and identify how mobile carriers can block these automated messages before they have the opportunity to cause any harm.”

If adopted by a vote of all five FCC members, the rulemaking would consider actions to protect the American public from illegal robotexts, “including network level blocking and applying caller authentication standards to text messaging,” the press release says.

The action also builds on previous FCC undertakings to curb the deluge of illegal automated calls. In August, the FCC proposed the largest fine ever, more than $5 million, against two men and their limited liability company for orchestrating an anti-vote-by-mail robocalling scheme prior to the 2020 presidential election.