US Supreme Court rules Facebook notification messages did not violate telemarketing law
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US Supreme Court rules Facebook notification messages did not violate telemarketing law

The US Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that Facebook’s notification pop-up messages did not violate the 1991 Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). The court unanimously upheld a narrow definition of an automated dialer, stating that Facebook’s software fell short of the definition.

The Supreme Court opinion in Facebook, Inc. v. Duguid reads that Facebook’s security notification systems do not fall within the TCPA’s definition of auto-dialers. The TCPA, which enforces a federal ban on robocalls, requires a system to store or produce random or sequential phone number generators. Facebook does not have such a system. Statutory interpretation based on grammar textbooks was used to derive the function of Facebook’s security notification system.

The suit was brought by Noah Duguid, who began receiving Facebook notification messages in 2014 despite not having a Facebook account. He continued to receive messages on his phone even after contacting Facebook. In 2015, along with several similarly situated people, he filed a class-action lawsuit on grounds that the company violated the TCPA by sending unwanted notification messages.

In early 2017, the US District Court for the Northern District of California dismissed Duguid’s claim on the basis that Facebook’s notification system is not an automated telephone dialing system (ATDS). In 2019, Duguid appealed to the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which reversed the district court’s decision. The federal appeals court followed a precedent confirming that a loose definition of ATDS can apply, and Facebook’s system falls within the definition of sending “automated, unsolicited, and unwanted” messages to consumers. Facebook appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing that there was a circuit split, as the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit decided otherwise.

Facebook Policy Communications Manager Andy Stone stated regarding the developments of the case, “As the Court recognized, the law’s provisions were never intended to prohibit companies from sending targeted security notifications and the court’s decision will allow companies to continue working to keep the accounts of their users safe.”