Public Policy | Jan. 28, 2020

Twilio Named to USTelecom’s Industry Traceback Group to Help Stop Illegal Robocalls

In case you missed the news, Twilio was welcomed today as a new member of USTelecom’s Industry Traceback Group (ITG)The Industry Traceback Group is where major stakeholders in the telecommunications industry come together to actively trace and identify the source of illegal robocalls, helping to prevent illegal robocalls from the start. The ITG epitomizes the type of industry-wide cooperation and is a crucial element of the complex approach needed to turn the tide against illegal robocalls.

In 2019 alone, results for the ITG include:

    • Conducted 1000+ tracebacks; implicating more than 10 million robocalls
    • Involved 100+ companies that participated in ITG traceback investigations
    • Substantially increased the number of ITG government referrals resulting in more than 20 subpoenas and/or civil investigative demands from federal and state enforcement agencies
    • Increased the number of providers who explicitly require traceback cooperation as a condition of their contracts with other carriers.

    The announcement of the 2020 ITG comes on the heels of a number of other major developments during the course of the last year, including Twilio’s efforts to stop illegal robocalls. The president just recently signed the TRACED Act into law in December 2019. More and more apps and services are being made available to consumers to help block and/or avoid unwanted robocalls. Companies are also offering technology to identify who is calling and why, providing the end user with more information to decide whether to answer the call or not. With regards to industry cooperation, stakeholders such as voice providers and systems operators are working hard to implement the SHAKEN/STIR protocol which is intended to combat spoofing. In our view, if you can clamp down on harmful spoofing, you can really knock the legs out from under illegal robocalls. Telecommunications industry stakeholders are working through groups such as the Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions (ATIS), of which Twilio co-chairs its Robocalling & Communication ID Spoofing group, the Internet Engineering Task Force, and the SIP Forum (Session Initiation Protocol) to bring the SHAKEN/STIR effort to fruition. In terms of enforcement, the Federal Communication Commission has been targeting the criminal elements behind illegal robocalls, and state attorneys general launched a program in July of 2019 to coordinate with the telecommunications industry to prosecute bad robocallers.

    All of this activity points to a conclusion that I mentioned in a previous blog: The days of illegal robocalls are numbered. Now that all of these pieces are in place -- and once the SHAKEN/STIR protocol is fully implemented -- we think you’ll start to experience relief from illegal robocalls 12 to 18 months afterwards.

    The ITG is a key element in the fight to bring back trust in the phone network. Twilio is pleased to be a member of the group and we look forward to working with our ITG colleagues to stop the bad calls and restore consumers’ faith that they will receive the calls they want.

    Rebecca Murphy Thompson is head of Communications Policy, Global Public Policy and Government Affairs for Twilio. @RMTMobile