Updated Jun 6, 2019

FCC votes on action and legal framework to fight robocalls

Robocalls have been on the rise. Photo: Maciej Luczniewski/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The Federal Communications Commission voted on a ruling Thursday that would combat robocalls that spoof legitimate, in-service numbers and provide a legal framework for phone carriers to carry out the action.

Why it matters: Robocalls are one of the most universally complained-about issues in the U.S., with a total of 48 billion made in 2018 alone, per YouMail Robocall Index. Most major wireless carriers have already promised to implement standards that verify if a call is real or if it comes from a computer.

“We expect phone companies will move quickly to use this tool and help consumers block unwanted robocalls. Among other things, default call-blocking will reduce the costs of handling the robocalls that flood their networks and save them grief by limiting customer complaints.”
— FCC Chairman Ajit Pai wrote in USA Today

Details: The declaratory ruling, per the FCC, enacts:

  • Phone companies would be allowed to block calls for consumers by default.
  • Consumers could "white list" their contacts and opt-in to only receive calls based on that list.
  • Emergency and other vital calls would not be blocked.
  • Through the notice of proposed rulemaking, the FCC will also seek comment on additional measures aimed at curbing robocalls.

What to watch: Phone companies will be required to put the tools in place to block robocalls, but the execution by these companies is not outlined by the FCC. For example, phone companies could choose to text consumers when a call is blocked or leave a voicemail.

  • The FCC is not mandating the service be free, but doesn't expect this service to add cost for consumers. Phone companies will save money by not servicing as many robocalls or not dealing with as many customer complaints, the agency said.

Go deeper: 48 billion robocalls annoyed Americans last year

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A man waves a Black Lives Matter flag atop the CNN logo during a protest in response to the police killing of George Floyd outside the CNN Center on May 29. Photo: Elijah Nouvelage / Getty Images

Dozens of journalists across the country tweeted videos Saturday night of themselves and their crews getting arrested, being shot at by police with rubber bullets, targeted with tear gas by authorities or assaulted by protestors.

Why it matters: The incidents show how easy it can be for the media to entangled in the stories they cover, especially during a time of civil unrest.

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Photo: David Dee Delgado/Getty Images

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The big picture: Floyd's death in Minneapolis police custody is the latest reminder of the disparities between black and white communities in the U.S. and comes as African Americans grapple with higher death rates from the coronavirus and higher unemployment from trying to stem its spread.

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Demonstrators gather at Lafayette Park across from the White House to protest the death of George Floyd in Washington, D.C. Photo: Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Major U.S. cities have implemented curfews and called on National Guard to mobilize as thousands of demonstrators gather across the nation to continue protesting the death of George Floyd.

The state of play: Hundreds have already been arrested as tensions continue to rise between protesters and local governments. Protesters are setting police cars on fire as freeways remain blocked and windows are shattered, per the Washington Post. Law enforcement officials are using tear gas and rubber bullets to try to disperse crowds and send protesters home.