Facebook recently lost a First Amendment challenge that claimed the site could send users unsolicited birthday texts under its free speech rights. However, the court disagreed, and now the social media giant is left to find another defense strategy.
The case began in 2015 when Facebook user Colin Brickman received a text from Facebook notifying him of a friend’s birthday. However, Brickman had marked in his settings prior to receiving the message that he did not wish to receive texts from Facebook. Then, in February 2016, Brickman filed a class action lawsuit against the site claiming it violated the Telephone Communications Privacy Act (TCPA) by sending unsolicited messages.
For its part, Facebook argued that the TCPA is unconstitutional because of its content-based restrictions on speech. But the court found that the law is constitutional — and Facebook’s texting is not protected by First Amendment rights.
“There is no evidence that the government’s interest in privacy ends at home,” the court ruled. “To whatever extent the government’s significant interest lies exclusively in residential privacy, the nature of cell phones renders the restriction of unsolicited text messaging all the more necessary to ensure that privacy.”
However, the site can continue to argue its point on a technical basis; after all, Brickman signed up for Facebook and gave the site his phone number, so Facebook could argue that he provided permission to text him. Still, for now, this is a big court win for user privacy rights.