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Image credit: AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

FCC will allow carriers to block spam text messages

There are concerns the ruling will enable censorship, however.
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AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

The FCC has rubber-stamped wireless carriers' ongoing efforts to block spam text messages. The regulator voted in favor of a ruling that labels SMS and MMS as information services under the Communications Act, giving telecoms permission to block unwanted messages. It simultaneously rejected bids from "mass-texting companies" and others to label text messaging as telecommunications services that would be subject to common carrier rules and potentially harder to block. On the surface, it's ideal -- carriers can continue to block spam texts en masse and fight spoofing attempts.

Not everyone is happy with the decision. Jessica Rosenworcel, the lone Democrat Commissioner, voted against the measure over concerns it could lead to abuse. Similar to the net neutrality repeal, the rejection of common carrier regulation gives providers the "legal right" to block text messages or even the content of those messages, according to Rosenworcel. In other words, it eliminates some safeguards for everyday people and puts more power in the hands of cellular giants.

This doesn't mean telecoms are about to start silencing critics or censoring mentions of their competitors. Spam texting is clearly an issue in the US. It's not clear that this approach was necessary to curb bulk texting, however, and it's possible that handing extra power to carriers could lead to trouble in the long run.

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