Facebook is asking the Supreme Court to reverse a lower court ruling that revived a lawsuit claiming the company violated a federal law by sending unwanted text messages.
The battle stems
from a lawsuit brought by Montana resident Noah Duguid, who alleged in a class-action complaint that Facebook repeatedly notified him via text that his account had been accessed — even though he
never had an account with the service.
Duguid, who apparently had been assigned a recycled phone number by his carrier, alleged that Facebook’s messages violated the Telephone Consumer
Protection Act. That law prohibits companies from using autodialers to text consumers without their consent.
Facebook is now urging the Supreme Court to rule that Duguid’s allegations, even if
accepted as true, wouldn’t show the company used an autodialer to send the messages.
“Far from alleging that they were sent to numbers generated randomly or sequentially, Duguid alleged
that Facebook sent him targeted, informational security alerts on an individual basis, and in response to specific instances of potentially unauthorized account access,” Facebook writes in papers filed Friday with the Supreme Court.
Judges throughout the country have struggled to figure out when texting systems are “autodialers” — a term defined by the Telephone Consumer Protection Act law as equipment that is
capable of storing and dialing numbers using a random or sequential generator.
To date, different judges have arrived at different conclusions.
In the dispute involving Duguid, a
federal district court judge accepted Facebook’s argument and dismissed the lawsuit.
Last year, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the case. That court said Duguid’s allegations, if
true, were sufficient to establish that Facebook used an autodialer to send him texts.
“He alleges that Facebook maintains a database of phone numbers and explains how Facebook programs
its equipment to automatically generate messages to those stored numbers,” the judges wrote. “The amended complaint explains in detail how Facebook automates even the aspects of the
messages that appear personalized.”
Facebook is now arguing to the Supreme Court that the lower court’s decision is too broad.
“The ruling below converts any telephone that
can store and dial numbers — which is to say virtually any modern phone — into an [autodialer],” Facebook writes.
The company adds that the 9th Circuit’s definition of autodialer
“would convert a targeted statute into an unconstitutional dragnet.”