Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile are currently embroiled in a debate with Trump and his 2020 campaign’s legal team over what constitutes illegal spam text messages. According to , the problems started in early July when a third-party company contracted by the three major mobile carriers blocked unsolicited text messages sent by the Trump campaign. The undisclosed firm was hired by the mobile companies to screen for spam.
The Trump campaign claims these text messages were sent manually and therefore did not violate the Federal Communication Commission’s regulations ban as it pertains only to automated messages.
According to the rules listed on the FCC’s website, text messages sent to mobile phones “require the called party’s prior express consent if they are generated using autodialing.”
“However, political text messages can be sent without prior consent of the intended recipient if the sender does not use autodialing technology to send the text,” the FCC site explains.
Still, there are other areas where the Trump texts could be seen as a violation of spam laws. As Business Insider reports, the campaign often does not provide a way for the person on the receiving end of the message to unsubscribe or opt out.
Violations of and federal anti-robocalling laws come with , ranging anywhere from tens to hundreds of million of dollars. So the Trump campaign sending text messages to people who did not sign up for them certainly fits into the definition of such violations. Ironically, Trump a law earlier this year that increased the per violation fine for robocalls and spams.
However, the president’s campaign believes this is all merely an issue of quashing his political speech. Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and advisor, even called the CEOs of Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile to complain about the text message blocks.
In a statement to , Trump’s campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh said, “Any effort by the carriers to restrict the campaign from contacting its supporters is suppression of political speech. Plain and simple.”
For now, the cell phone carriers have chosen not to provide a public statement yet. Instead, the companies are referring to the standards set by industry lobbyist group Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association in order to ensure the carriers are extra careful as to not violate federal communication laws.
Smartphone outreach is a major part of the Trump campaign’s re-election strategy. The campaign regularly sends out text messages in order to fundraise from the president’s base.
As points out, the Supreme Court of the United States recently ruled against an argument that claimed anti-robocall laws violated First Amendment rights. This ruling puts quite a hole in the Trump campaign’s argument that text message spam is free speech.
As of now, the standoff between Trump and the mobile phone carriers over his campaign’s spammy unsolicited text messages continues.