Supreme Court ruling: Facebook's automated texts don't violate robocalling laws

In a 9-0 decision authored by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the Supreme Court barred a proposed lawsuit against Facebook over automated text messages.

Ry Crist Senior Editor / Reviews - Labs
Originally hailing from Troy, Ohio, Ry Crist is a writer, a text-based adventure connoisseur, a lover of terrible movies and an enthusiastic yet mediocre cook. A CNET editor since 2013, Ry's beats include smart home tech, lighting, appliances, broadband and home networking.
Expertise Smart home technology and wireless connectivity Credentials
  • 10 years product testing experience with the CNET Home team
Ry Crist
2 min read
Facebook social media app
James Martin/CNET

The US Supreme Court on Thursday issued a unanimous ruling in favor of Facebook, finding that the social media giant isn't violating the 1991 Telephone Consumer Protection Act when it sends out automated text messages. The court noted that the 1991 law, which was written to curb robocalls, wasn't intended to apply to new, internet-based technologies.

The ruling bars a proposed class action lawsuit against Facebook , which a federal judge had already tossed out in 2019. The plaintiffs, led by a Montana resident named Noah Duguid who had received numerous password reset texts from Facebook despite never using the service, appealed to the San Francisco-based 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals, where a judge ruled that Facebook's practices fell under the scope of the law, meaning that the lawsuit could proceed.

Facebook appealed that ruling, and the Supreme Court agreed to take up the case before ultimately ruling in the company's favor in Thursday's 9-0 vote.

"Duguid's quarrel is with Congress, which did not define an autodialer as malleably as he would have liked," wrote Justice Sonia Sotomayor for the court.

Specifically, Sotomayor notes that the 1991 law bars autodialer technology that uses randomly generated phone numbers. That's not the case with Facebook, which claims that Duguid was likely assigned a phone number that had been previously associated with a Facebook user who had opted in to text-based notifications.

Chief Justice John Roberts and justices Clarence Thomas, Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett joined Sotomayor's opinion. Justice Samuel Alito wrote a concurring opinion that agreed with the court's decision, but took issue with some of the procedural logic used to parse the grammar of the 1991 law as written.

See also: How to stop robocalls: Every way we know to block the annoying scam phone calls