The Supreme Court Votes to Tighten Ban on Robocalls


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People looking at smartphones

On Monday, the Supreme Court revisited a law banning automated calls to cell phones and voted to uphold the law despite concerns that it may violate the First Amendment. It also voted in favor of extending that ban to automated debt collecting calls to keep the playing grounds fair when it comes to freedom of speech.

Recently, the Supreme Court made an exception to the ban on robocalls which allowed debt collectors to place automated phone calls to people who owe the government money. Now the Supreme Court is throwing that decision in reverse and saying all robocalls will be restricted under the new law to make it evenly constitutional.

In short, as a remedy to a concern that free speech is being violated, the Supreme Court voted to restrict even more free speech. Political consultants wanted the original ban to be removed in an effort to promote freedom of speech for all and not just debt collectors that benefitted the government, and the government wanted to keep things the way they stand. But the court ruled to uphold the ban on robocalls and include government debt collectors in that ban as well.

The decision was written by Brett Kavanaugh.

“Americans passionately disagree about many things. But they are largely united in their disdain for robocalls,” Kavanaugh wrote. “…Plaintiffs still may not make political robocalls to cell phones, but their speech is now treated equally with debt-collection speech.”

The only justice to disagree from the ruling was Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch who remarked that “the irony of a First Amendment challenge leading to the suppression of more speech as a remedy.”

“Somehow, in the name of vindicating the First Amendment, our remedial course today leads to the unlikely result that not a single person will be allowed to speak more freely and, instead, more speech will be banned,” he wrote.

The FCC has been working hard at finding ways to protect against robocalls In a press release, the FCC said phone companies have until June 30th, 2021 to put the tools to use on their networks. The move follows last year’s TRACED Act (Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence), which directed the FCC to establish new rules and policies to better guard against robocalls.

The FCC estimates that cracking down on robocalls could save more than $3 billion per year, adding that fraudulent robocalls also cost Americans around $10 billion annually.

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