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Facebook Gets Trump Administration Boost in SCOTUS Robocall Case

Sept. 8, 2020, 2:52 PM

Facebook Inc. has won the Trump administration’s support in its bid to persuade the U.S. Supreme Court to limit the scope of a federal anti-robocall law.

The Justice Department has urged the high court to reverse the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit’s ruling in Facebook Inc. v. Duguid. The Ninth Circuit found that Facebook used an autodialing system to text consumers in violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.

The law bans entities from using an autodialer to call or text consumers without advance permission. Circuit courts are split, however, on what technologies count as autodialers.

“The present uncertainty regarding the proper interpretation of neighboring TCPA provisions makes it difficult to assess with confidence the practical consequences of adopting Duguid’s construction of” the law, the department said in the Sept. 4 filing. “But the possibility that Duguid’s interpretation could be adopted without sweeping in ordinary smartphones provides no affirmative reason to reject the most natural reading” of the law’s text.

The Ninth and Second Circuits have backed a more expansive autodialer definition. Several others, including the D.C., Third and Eleventh Circuits, favor a narrow definition, which gives companies more technological options for sending messages. Facebook asked the Supreme Court to resolve the court split to help businesses assess when they’re liable for calling and texting customers.

The case is Facebook Inc. v. Duguid, U.S., No. 19-511, DOJ brief filed 9/4/20

To contact the reporter on this story: Jon Reid in Washington at jreid@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: John Hughes at jhughes@bloombergindustry.com; Keith Perine at kperine@bloomberglaw.com

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