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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Federal regulators, lawmakers, and private companies haven't found any one tool that on its own can stem the flood of robocalls, so they are trying several approaches at once.

The big picture: There were a record 5.7 billion robocalls in October, according to YouMail, and the Federal Communications Commission has singled out the issue as its top consumer complaint.

What's happening now: The FCC is pushing both policy proposals and huge fines to deter robocalls.

  • On the policy front, the FCC has made it clear to service providers that they can offer robocall blocking services by default. It has also demanded that they implement a caller ID authentication framework known as SHAKEN/STIR, which involves creating a digital fingerprint to verify caller ID information.
  • On the enforcement front, the agency on Thursday proposed a nearly $10 million fine against a man accused of spoofing a rival telemarketing company's number to make thousands of robocalls with false allegations against a political candidate in California last year.

Yes, but: As Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel points out, the FCC hasn't collected on the majority of the robocall fines it has assessed. (The agency relies on the Justice Department to do the collecting.)

  • "Everyone should save the accolades for when we crush these calls and collect," Rosenworcel said in a statement Thursday. "And on that score, we have work to do."

On Capitol Hill, the House voted last week to approve legislation that would combat robocalls by requiring carriers to implement a caller authentication system and to give consumers free access to call blocking software.

  • The Pallone-Thune TRACED Act would also give the FCC greater enforcement powers and encourage cooperation with the Justice Department in cracking down on robocalls.
  • The bipartisan legislation is now awaiting a vote in the Senate, which is expected to come soon.

Tech companies and phone carriers are also trying to address the situation, including moves by Apple and Google as well as innovative efforts from startups.

  • Apple added a feature in iOS 13 that lets customers automatically block unknown callers, a move that protects against some spammers, but not those who are pretending to be someone you know.
  • Google has a call screening feature for its Android-based Pixel phones that can intercept unwanted calls.
  • There are also third party apps, like Nomorobo and Robokiller, that help block spam callers.

The bottom line: Someday maybe this will all change, but for now, your fingers remain the final line of defense. If you don't recognize the number, don't pick up.

Go deeper

Trading platforms curb trading on high-flying Reddit stocks

Major trading platforms including Robinhood, TDAmeritrade and Interactive Brokers are restricting — or cutting off entirely — trading on high-flying stocks like GameStop and AMC Entertainment.

Why it matters: It limits access to the traders that have contributed to the wild Reddit-driven activity of the past few days — a phenomenon that has gripped Wall Street and the country.

2020 was the economy's worst year since 1946

Source: FRED; Billions of chained 2012 dollars; Chart: Axios Visuals

One of the last major economic report cards of the Trump era lends perspective to the historic damage caused by the pandemic, which continued to weigh on growth in the final quarter of 2020.

By the numbers: The U.S. economy grew at a 4% annualized pace in the fourth quarter, a sharp slowdown in growth compared to the prior quarter. For the full year, the economy shrank by 3.5% — the first annual contraction since the financial crisis and the worst decline since 1946.

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
3 hours ago - Economy & Business

How GameStop exposed the market

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Retail traders have found a cheat code for the stock market, and barring some major action from regulatory authorities or a massive turn in their favored companies, they're going to keep using it to score "tendies" and turn Wall Street on its head.

What's happening: The share prices of companies like GameStop are rocketing higher, based largely on the social media organizing of a 3-million strong group of Redditors who are eagerly piling into companies that big hedge funds are short selling, or betting will fall in price.