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Judge rejects 'free speech' argument in Google SMS spam suit

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A California judge has refused a motion by Google do dismiss a proposed class-action lawsuit that claims it sent text message spam to phone numbers added by users to its group messaging service Disco.

Windows Phone SMS
Windows Phone SMS

A proposed class-action lawsuit against defunct Google SMS service Disco will go forward, a California judge has ruled. Disco, which allowed users to send group text messages, is alleged to have sent automatic advertising messages to people whose phone numbers appeared in users' Disco contacts, regardless of whether or not they were Disco users themselves. According to the suit, people whose numbers had been added by Disco users received unwanted text messages inviting them to download the Disco app, something that may violate the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991.

In response, Google and Slide — the social app company acquired by Google in 2010 — asked for the suit to be dismissed, arguing that the "informative" text messages were protected free speech. However, since the lawsuit explicitly claims that the messages are advertisements that can be regulated, the judge ruled that the case would go forward. "Defendants' argument that its Disco service sent non-commercial text messages deserving of First Amendment protection disputes the facts" of the case, said Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, noting that this wasn't grounds to dismiss the lawsuit. There's been no decision on whether the messages actually run afoul of consumer protection laws, but the plaintiffs are one step closer to arguing their case against Google.