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February 27, 2020

Twilio Joins State Attorneys General To Fight Illegal Robocalls

In August of 2019, 50 state attorneys general along with Washington, D.C. announced an initiative to combat illegal robocalls. They introduced a set of Anti-Robocall Principles that provided the framework for the AGs to work with major voice providers in a joint effort to share information needed to investigate the bad actors behind robocall scams.

At the time of the announcement, the initiative involved 12 voice providers; recently, the AGs expanded the group by inviting Twilio along with Wabash Communications and  Shentel to join the effort.

Twilio has been active in the illegal robocall fight on a number of other fronts. We recently joined as a steering committee member to USTelecom’s Industry Traceback Group, 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. Twilio also co-chairs the Robocalling and Communication ID Spoofing group for the Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions (ATIS), in addition to having a seat on the board of directors. ATIS, along with the Internet Engineering Task Force and the SIP Forum (Session Initiation Protocol), all work together as an industry consortium with the telecommunications industry to develop and implement the SHAKEN/STIR protocol to eradicate illegal spoofing. Twilio also is a member of the Messaging, Malware and Mobile Anti-Abuse Working Group (M3AAWG), the premier industry group dedicated to combating bots, malware, spam, viruses, denial-of-service attacks and other online exploitation across platforms, including mobile, email, voice and emerging platforms such as social messaging. Lastly, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) appointed Twilio to the re-chartered North American Numbering Council (NANC). The NANC is a federal advisory committee that was created to advise the FCC on numbering issues in the United States and to make recommendations that foster efficient and impartial number administration. The NANC is composed of representatives of telecommunications carriers, regulators, cable providers, VoIP providers, industry associations, vendors and consumer advocates. 

Illegal robocalls present a complicated problem that requires a complicated approach. No single “silver bullet” will stop unwanted calls. It takes a combined effort of public policy, law enforcement, industry cooperation and innovation, similar to what was used to combat and successfully mitigate spam email. The same pieces are in place now to turn the tide against robocall scams. In addition to the various groups listed above, Congress recently passed and the president signed into law the TRACED Act, which gives the FCC and voice providers more ammunition to combat illegal robocalls. Technology advances in the form of numerous apps and services are now available 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. In fact, Twilio is piloting Branded Communications, which provides information about who is calling and why, empowering consumers to answer calls again. Lastly, the FCC also has stepped up its own enforcement efforts.

Amidst all of this, the public/private partnership established by the state AGs is the crucial remaining element in the fight against unwanted calls. We’d like to commend the state attorneys general for taking this initiative, especially North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein for providing his leadership to coordinate the group’s activities. 

Consumers deserve relief from illegal robocalls as soon as possible, in addition to still being able to receive the calls that they do want, such as from charities, schools, health care providers, businesses and government agencies during crisis situations. Twilio  appreciates the opportunity to support the combined efforts of the state AGs and our industry colleagues in pursuit of this shared goal and to bring trust back to the phone call for end users.

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