SMS Providers: Filtering Content?


In the realm of email, content filtering is old hat. Nowadays, it’s all about reputation and engagement. Okay, sure, content filtering still exists, but the bad old days are long gone. No more do you have to worry that using the word FREE in the subject line is going to get your mail blocked.
Sounds like spam blocking in the world of text messaging is not quite as modern, according to a lawsuit I read about a couple of weeks ago. SMS messaging provider EZ Texting filed suit against cell carrier T-Mobile over blocking of its client’s mobile messages, claiming that the reason for the blocking was apparently due either to content-based filtering or because of censorship. The EZ Texting client at the heart of the matter is a website that allows users to locate their nearest medical marijuana dispensary.
T-Mobile, in its response to the allegations, states that what actually happened is that EZ Texting broke the rules. When you register a short code with the various cellular carriers, you provide them with written documentation detailing just exactly what you intend to do with that short code. What kind of messages you’re going to send to your subscriber base. What the message flow looks like in various interaction scenarios.  From my experience working for an ESP that offers mobile messaging support, I know this to be true.
As T-Mobile said on its website: “Each carrier has a process to ensure that content providers like EZ Texting follow the Mobile Marketing Association‘s U.S. Consumer Best Practices Guidelines for Cross-Carrier Mobile Content Programs, as well as other regulations applicable to the mobile content business. When T-Mobile discovered that EZ Texting had not followed this process for […] the text messaging service at issue in the lawsuit – we turned off the short code that EZ Texting was using for these services. The content of the […] service simply had nothing to do with T-Mobile’s decision.”
T-Mobile said that the documentation filed with the provider indicated that the short code in question suggested that its intended use was to let subscribers know about promotions at various bars and night clubs. Use of the short code for a campaign related to a medical marijuana dispensary service fell outside of that use case, and lo, T-Mobile revoked use of that short code. They say that they “subsequently learned that EZTexting was running several other unauthorized shadow programs on the same short code,” meaning that there was additional use of the short code even beyond the original, defined use (night club promotions) and the use by the medical marijuana dispensary locater.
Turns out, the point is moot.  Last Friday, October 1st, the Washington Post reported that T-Mobile and EZ Texting have settled their lawsuit. I’m kind of saddened by that, as it would have been nice to see the courts affirm T-Mobile’s right to block inappropriate use of their network. But, you never know which way the court will rule, so maybe it was in everybody’s best interest to not let this get as far as a jury.
And who knows, maybe EZ Texting jumped the gun here, and only needed to file amended paperwork to fix the issue. Compare this to spam blocking — we’ve all had clients who immediately want to threaten and bluster and potentially even sue, because they got spam blocked. But, 99.99% of the time, it’s much easier, and much simpler, to resolve the issue, to get the block removed, without resorting to legal action.

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By aliverson

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