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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

Pope Francis denounces European governments' migrant response

Pope Francis adresses refugees at the Reception and Identification Centre (RIC) in Mytilene on the island of Lesbos on Sunday. Photo: Louisa Gouliamaki/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Pope Francis criticized European countries' response to migrants and asylum seekers during his visit to a refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos Sunday.

Why it matters: The pope said "migration is a humanitarian crisis that concerns everyone," but little had changed in the global response to displaced peoples since his first visit to Lesbos five years ago, per a transcript of his remarks. "Human lives, real people, are at stake. ... let us stop this shipwreck of civilization!"

Chris Cuomo accuser: On-air "hypocrisy" spurred report

Journalist Chris Cuomo. Photo: Gilbert Carrasquillo/GC Images

A woman who accused fired CNN journalist Chris Cuomo of sexual misconduct said Sunday she decided to come forward after learning of his comments about women who made similar accusations about his brother. He denies her allegations.

Why it matters: Her attorney Debra Katz said in a statement that she heard "the hypocrisy" of his on-air words about his brother, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and was "disgusted by his efforts to try to discredit these women," so "retained counsel to report his serious sexual misconduct against her to CNN."

Updated 7 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: CDC director says number of U.S. Omicron cases "likely to rise" — Two years of COVID-19 — Prior coronavirus infections may not protect well against Omicron.
  2. Vaccines: Data demonstrates most-vaccinated counties less vulnerable to worst of COVID — Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating world — Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters.
  3. Politics: Nevada to impose insurance surcharge on unvaccinated state workers — New Jersey GOP lawmakers defy statehouse COVID policy — Oklahoma sues Biden administration over Pentagon vaccine mandate.
  4. World: Vaccine mandates lose steam in the U.S. while Europe doubles downWHO: Delta health measures help fight Omicron — COVID cases surge in South Africa in sign Omicron wave is coming.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.