Tag Archives: Telephone Consumer Protection Act

Average Joe SCOTUS: Facebook v. Duguid

We all hate robocalls, right? Well, this is about a robotext. You see, Facebook has been sending messages to Noah Duguid that someone was trying to access his account. But Noah doesn’t even have a fucking Facebook account. This poor bastard got texts for like ten months.

So finally, Noah was like, “I’m suing these motherfuckers to make them leave me alone.”

He sued using the Telephone and Consumer Protection Act of 1991, which forbids robocalls, even though he was getting texts, not calls.

Well, in the statute, it defines a robocaller as a device with the capacity “to store or produce telephone numbers to be called, using a random or sequential number generator.” But the Ninth circuit opted to ignore that last sentence, arguing it doesn’t care if they use a random number generator, if it stores and calls numbers automatically, it’s a violation.

So here we are at SCOTUS to decide whether it has to use a random number generator to be in violation of the law.

In a unanimous decision, written by Justice Sotomayor, Facebook gets the nod. Section 227(a)(1) defines an autodialer as “equipment which has the capacity to store or produce telephone numbers to be called, using a random or sequential number generator; and to dial such numbers.” They argued that English works like this. Because the “using a random or sequential number generator” part of that text clearly modifies both “store” and “produce’ in the first part of the sentence, otherwise they’d have written it differently. Since Facebook’s software neither stores, nor produces numbers using a number generator, they’re in the clear.

On a side note, hold on to your hats, because this largely means that you’ll be getting a lot more calls of this nature, since it now limits the scope under the law, to only calls that were done randomly, and not specifically aimed at you.

Read about the case, and hear oral arguments at Oyez.com, or read about it at SCOTUSBlog or National Law Review.

Barr v. American Association of Political Consultants Inc.

Back in 1991, the government passed the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. It was basically a law preventing spammers from calling you on your cell phone via a machine (robocalls), and racking up costs for the phone’s owner. Obviously, in 1991, people were often paying for minutes of usage, whereas now, most phone plans have unlimited calling. But still, I hate these assholes, so I like the law.

There were exemptions, though. It allowed for emergency calls. And it allowed for calls when you had previously agreed to get them from that party.

In 2015, those assholes in congress added a provision to allow debt collection calls “owed to or guaranteed by the United States” as well. Any calls from the federal government in general are also allowed.

Along come these butt plugs from The American Association of Political Consultants, Inc., who love spamming the hell out of people with their surveys and shit. They claim their 1st amendment right to free speech is being limited by not allowing them to annoy the fuck out of all of us with cell phones wanting to talk to us about politics and shit. They argued that because the law limits calls based on content, allowing the government to make them, while these assholes can’t, versus banning all calls—this makes such a ban a 1A violation of free speech.

At one point, this scumbag also argued:

The government-debt exception confirms that Congress did not view the privacy interests here as compelling. That exception exposes 60 million Americans to unlimited calls to collect more than 4.2 trillion dollars in debt.

Those are the kinds of calls consumers hate the most. If Congress really thought privacy was paramount, it would not have allowed those calls.

While it’s true those are the calls people hate the most, the fact is, those people agreed to incur a debt, and agreed to allow the people who lent them money or services to collect that debt, and then they didn’t fucking pay it. I’ve been there, it’s annoying. But it’s no one’s fault but my own.

Yet these shady fuckhats want to call you and just shoot the breeze about who you plan on voting for and shit. Ain’t nobody got time for that, and I didn’t agree to that shit in advance. They also argue these calls are non-commercial, meaning they’re not trying to sell you anything. So that’s why they think it should be OK.

Both an appeals court and the fourth circuit were highly unimpressed with this bullshit argument. So here were are to determine if it’s a 1A violation or not.

In a 6:3 majority, the right-leaning justices along with Sotomayor agreed that the government-debt exception violates the 1st amendment. That the government doesn’t get to say you can be called if the debt is guaranteed by them, but restrict a private debt collector.

The interesting part, is while the government lost and AAPC won, technically, AAPC still can’t call your ass. Instead, SCOTUS ruled that this “government-backed debt collection” exemption could be struck from the law itself, while leaving the rest of the law in tact. So now, you cannot robocall for any debt collection to your cell phone, whether it’s backed by the government, or a private debt. So AAPC still can’t call your mobile phone, but neither can any other debt collector.

This is basically like when you’re a kid, and you’re mad your older brother can go out, and you can’t. So instead of letting you go out, your parents say your brother can’t either. You didn’t make your own situation better, you just made it worse for others.