Supreme Court sides with Facebook in text message dispute

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court on Thursday sided with Facebook in a lawsuit over unwanted text notifications it sent, rejecting a claim that the messages violated the federal ban on robocalls.

The high court’s ruling for the Menlo Park, California-based social media giant was unanimous.

Democratic lawmakers and consumer groups said the court opened a gaping hole in the law, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, that would subject anyone with a cellphone to endless automated calls and messages.

The case was brought by a man who received text messages from Facebook notifying him that an attempt had been made to log in to his account from a new device or browser. The man, Noah Duguid, said he never had a Facebook account and never gave Facebook his phone number. When he was unable to stop the notifications, he filed a class action lawsuit.

The 1991 consumer law bars abusive telemarketing practises.

The thumbs up Like logo is shown on a sign at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, California. PHOTO: AP

The law restricts calls made using an “automatic telephone dialing system”, a device that can “store or produce telephone numbers to be called, using a random or sequential number generator” and then call that number.

The question for the court was whether the law covers equipment that can store and dial telephone numbers even if the equipment does not use a random or sequential number generator.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote for the court that it does not.

Facebook spokesman Andy Stone said in an emailed statement, “As the Court recognised, the law’s provisions were never intended to prohibit companies from sending targetted security notifications and the court’s decision will allow companies to continue working to keep the accounts of their users safe.”