Robocalls swamped my voicemail, and they snuck in without a ring

Republicans and others want the FCC to give the OK for spammy messages that slip into your voicemail without notice. Free speech? Or voicemail meltdown?

Edward Moyer Senior Editor
Edward Moyer is a senior editor at CNET and a many-year veteran of the writing and editing world. He enjoys taking sentences apart and putting them back together. He also likes making them from scratch. ¶ For nearly a quarter of a century, he's edited and written stories about various aspects of the technology world, from the US National Security Agency's controversial spying techniques to historic NASA space missions to 3D-printed works of fine art. Before that, he wrote about movies, musicians, artists and subcultures.
  • Ed was a member of the CNET crew that won a National Magazine Award from the American Society of Magazine Editors for general excellence online. He's also edited pieces that've nabbed prizes from the Society of Professional Journalists and others.
Edward Moyer
2 min read

Oh, lord. Robocalls may be going stealth. And your voicemail could become useless as a result.

The Republican Party and others are pushing the Federal Communications Commission to clear the way for robocalls that would go straight to your voicemail without your mobile phone ever ringing, says a Wednesday report by Recode.

Yeah, he's holding a landline. (Remember those?) But we think you'll agree the sentiment may be similar.

Yeah, he's holding a landline. (Remember those?) But we think you'll agree the sentiment may be similar.

Getty Images

No ring, no "call" -- which would let the messages sidestep a rule that says groups must get your written consent before targeting your phone with pleas for votes or pitches for products. That's the thinking anyway, and supporters of the strategy want the FCC to make it official.

Subjecting such sneaky robocalls to the prior consent rule "would not only restrict an important form of nonintrusive communication; it would have serious consequences for the First Amendment rights of those engaged in political communication via telephone," the Republican National Committee said in comments filed with the FCC earlier this month (PDF). The RNC didn't respond to a request for further comment.

Critics, on the other hand, say bye-bye voicemail. Margot Freeman Saunders, a lawyer with the National Consumer Law Center, told Recode that allowing this kind of stealthy spam would leave many people "completely overwhelmed by messages" they can't block.

The Democratic party didn't respond to a request for comment on its position regarding "ringless voicemail."

You can comment though, to the FCC, regardless of your stance on the situation.

Simply go here. In the "Proceedings" field, type in "02-278." That should bring up a list item that says "Rules and Regulations Implementing the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991." Select that; then fill out the rest of the form and make your feelings known in the "Brief Comments" section.

It's not clear whether your filing will cause the FCC commissioners' phones to ring in the middle of dinner--or instead make their voicemail go nuts. But hey, if you exercise your right to free speech, perhaps we'll find out.

CNET Magazine: Check out a sampling of the stories you'll find in CNET's newsstand edition.

Logging out: Welcome to the crossroads of online life and the afterlife.