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FCC chair proposes rules to reduce scam robotexts

If the rules are approved, providers would need to block texts that are 'highly likely to be illegal.'

artoleshko via Getty Images

The chair of the Federal Communications Commission has proposed new rules to tackle the scourge of text message scams. If the agency's commissioners approve the rules at a meeting in March, providers would have to block robotexts that are "highly likely to be illegal," chair Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement.

The FCC has yet to publish the full text of Rosenworcel's proposal. If adopted, it will force providers to block text messages that appear to be from numbers on a do-not-originate list. They include unused, invalid and unallocated numbers, as well as those that government agencies and "other well-known entities" say they don't send texts from. Messages from these numbers "are highly likely to be illegal and no consumer would want to receive them," an FCC statement reads.

Moreover, providers would have to block texts from entities that the FCC flags for sending illegal robotexts. The proposed rules state that providers would additionally need to expand National Do Not Call Registry protections to include texts to prevent consumers from receiving unwanted marketing messages.

“Missing packages that don’t exist; confirmation of payments that didn’t happen; links to shady websites; and truncated ‘wrong number’ messages from strangers. These scam robotexts are a part of everyday life for too many of us,” Rosenworcel said. “I’m asking my colleagues to join me in adopting the first FCC rules to focus on shutting down scam texts. But we’re not stopping here. Because we are going to keep at it and develop more ways to take on this growing consumer threat.”

The robotext proposal follows measures the FCC has taken to stamp out robocalls. Both issues are on the agenda for the FCC's open meeting next month, along with other items like a proposed framework "for increased collaboration between terrestrial mobile network operators and satellite service providers" to bolster phone service in areas where it is lacking. That could could come in useful for life-or-death situations in remote areas. Certain devices, such as the iPhone 14, now offer satellite connectivity for emergency use.