The high court ruled that the social media giant’s system for texting users about unauthorized logins to their social media accounts didn’t violate the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which Congress passed in 1991 to restrict telemarketing.
The ruling concluded that, unlike Facebook’s system, an “automatic telephone dialing system” has the capacity to “store or produce telephone numbers to be called, using a random or sequential generator,” and to dial those numbers.
“In sum, Congress’ definition of an autodialer requires that in all cases, whether storing or producing numbers to be called, the equipment in question must use a random or sequential number generator,” said Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who wrote the court’s opinion. “This definition excludes equipment like Facebook’s login notification system, which does not use such technology.”
Facebook’s general counsel, Jennifer Newstead, said in a statement the court’s decision affirmed that the company complies with the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.
The decision overruled the the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.
“Expanding the definition of an autodialer to encompass any equipment that merely stores and dials telephone numbers would take a chainsaw to these nuanced problems when Congress meant to use a scalpel,” Sotomayor said.
Noah Duguid had brought the lawsuit because Facebook sent him numerous automatic text messages without his consent.
Duguid did not use Facebook, yet for about 10 months the company repeatedly alerted him by text message that someone was attempting to access his nonexistent Facebook account.
Facebook said Duguid likely had a recycled number associated with another user.
The company appealed to the Supreme Court after the California-based 9th Circuit sided with Duguid in 2019.
“Duguid’s quarrel is with Congress, which did not define an autodialer as malleably as he would have liked,” Sotomayor said.
Sergi Lemberg, Duguid’s attorney, didn’t immediately respond to a call for comment.
In October, National Consumer Law Center, Consumer Reports, and the Consumer Federation of America submitted an amicus brief warning that a ruling in Fcebook’s favor “would open Americans up to a deluge of robocalls that they cannot stop.”
Facebook shares were up 1.1% to $297.69 on Thursday.
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