FCC Starts Rulemaking Process to Block Unwanted Text Messages

The Federal Communications Commission yesterday announced a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that seeks to crack down on illegal and fraudulent text messages, finally taking action more than a year after initially announcing the proposal.

The number of complaints received by the FCC related to unwanted text messages increased by 146% between 2019 and 2020, and that number is on pace to continue growing in 2022 and beyond. While the overall complaint numbers are lower than unwanted phone calls, the dangers of text messages are greater, the FCC said in its NPRM. Text messages can include links that can install malware on devices and link to phishing sites that appear identical to the websites of legitimate companies.

  • Similar to other NPRMs, the FCC will solicit comments from the public about the proposal, and provided several dozen questions that interested parties could answer, such as asking whether carriers should follow the same authentication protocols — STIR/SHAKEN — for text messages as for phone calls, and what to do about text messages that are blocked erroneously.
  • “The American people are fed up with scam texts, and we need to use every tool we have to do something about it,” said FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, in a statement. “Recently, scam text messaging has become a growing threat to consumers’ wallets and privacy. More can be done to address this growing problem and today we are formally starting an effort to take a serious, comprehensive, and fresh look at our policies for fighting unwanted robotexts.”
  • The FCC also proposed requiring carriers to block texts that appear to originate from phone numbers that are invalid, unassigned, or otherwise not being used as well as numbers on a “Do Not Originate” list.

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