HAPPY NEW YEAR TCPAWORLD!: Here Are the Top 10 TCPA Stories from 2020 According to TCPAWorld.com Readers

Editor’s Note: I flubbed the original title. This article addresses stories from 2020– not 2019. Rusty much Troutman?

Well folks as we turn the page on 2020–which most of us are eager to do–and look forward to (hopefully) brighter days ahead we ought to pause and take stock of what we learned last year.

As tradition dictates, I pause at the start of each year to look back on the biggest stories of the previous year so we can prepare to do battle anew in the new year. And rather than MY top 10 list this is actually YOUR top 10 list– the list of BIGGEST TCPA stories from last year BASED ON YOUR READERSHIP.  The more reads a story received the higher up the ranks it climbs.

And boy did we have a ton of traffic last year…

But first, hopefully you’ve all had a chance to digest the Archduke’s remarkably astute predictions on what 2021 may bring. I’ll have a top 10 forward looking TCPA stories article for you next week as well.

So without further adieu, here are the BIGGEST TCPA stories of 2020 based on our readership volumes.

No. 10: Repeat TCPA Plaintiffs Score Big Wins

Nothing fascinates (enrages?) TCPAWorld dwellers more than hearing about the antics of repeat TCPA plaintiffs. Names like Shelton, Perrong, Mey, Abante Rooter, Cunningham, Charvat (one R), and the infamous Doc Compton really seem to move the needle. And nothing gets the dander of TCPAWorld readers like stories of these frequent fliers scoring big TCPA wins. So it is, perhaps, little surprise that the number 10 most read story of 2020 was this piece discussing a win by two of these creative fellas— overcoming the Stoops defense and carving out a new private right of action for internal DNC claims.

This story was certainly bad news for TCPA defendants, but it was liquid gold for TCPA blogs. Assuming readership spikes are a form of liquid. Which they aren’t.

Also, isn’t all gold liquid if heated?

I digress.

No. 9: The TRACED Act Passes in Some of Its Original Glory

2019 was the year of TRACED– with TCPA blogs obsessing over its comings and goings and growings and shrinkings. In the end the Republican controlled Senate (wisely?) refused to adopt many of the TCPA enhancements proposed in the Democratic-controlled House’s “Stopping Bad Robocalls Act” resulting in a somewhat watered-down version of TRACED that did not alter the TCPA’s language much.

What TRACED did do, however, was empower the FCC to deploy further technological advancements and “advanced” strategies for detecting and preventing unwanted and illegal calls (which are not the same thing, btw.) It also beefed up the FCC’s enforcement capabilities and made the penalties for violating the statute EVEN HIGHER– at least in a regulatory enforcement action.

But the most important thing to keep in mind about TRACED isn’t what it changed but what it preserved– the TCPA’s status as the crown jewel of the federal government’s response to the robocall epidemic. Congress could easily have passed something (anything?) else to give this country’s citizens the peace and quiet they feel so richly entitled to. But it didn’t. Instead it inserted a hefty-dose of steroids into the TCPA and encouraged the FCC to have at it.

It is little wonder then, that the Baron’s ground-breaking piece summarizing the TRACED Act and its impact on the TCPAWorld was the ninth most read story of 2020.

No. 8: The FCC Rules Some P2P Texting Platforms Are Not Subject to the TCPA and Everyone Freaks Out

“We only see what we want to see; we only hear what we want to hear. Our belief system is just like a mirror that only shows us what we believe.”

Those words might describe just about everybody viewing just about everything in 2020–only I am exempt from external influence and can perceive truth at all times ;)– but they DEFINITELY describe the reaction of TCPAWorld denizens to the FCC’s big ruling addressing P2P texting. P2P text platforms and their users leapt for delight seeing a carte blanch blessing of their technology. The Plaintiff’s bar, on the other hand, high fived as the ruling seemed limited to systems requiring the complete entry of a ten digit phone number– and may have even suggested that the old “capacity” formulation of the Omnibus ruling was still being applied by the Commission.

Amongst all the hubbub the NCLC appealed the bureau-level decision to the Commissioners, while courts scratched their head about the impact of the ruling.

Whatever you choose to see in the big ruling is up to you– but chances are high you read my extremely-well read article breaking down the ruling, which was our 8th best read post of the year.

No. 7: The Eleventh Circuit Decides Glasser And Almost Ends the TCPA As We Know It

So much TCPA “stuff” happened in 2020 that’s its almost difficult to recall just how big a ruling the Eleventh Circuit gave us in Glasser. At the time no Circuit Court of Appeals had clearly and directly held that the TCPA’s ATDS definition required the use of a random or sequential generator. Indeed, the only Appellate Court to look at the issue–the Ninth Circuit–had held that the TCPA applied to all technology that dialed automatically from a list of numbers.

So the late January, 2020 ruling in Glasser was really a remarkably important development–and a true coup given the massive number of TCPA cases that were pending within the court’s footprint (particularly in Florida) at the time.

It didn’t hurt that the Court’s opinion was really well written and included a captivating admonition that readers must: “Remember these words…” As we know in retrospect, Glasser would be followed by the Seventh Circuit in Gadelhak but rejected by the Second and Sixth Circuits in LaBoom and Allan respectively, setting up an epic showdown at the Supreme Court. But back in the misty early days of 2020 Glasser really seemed like the light and the way.  All of this combined to assure that my piece breaking down the remarkable Glasser opinion came in as our 7th best read article of the year.

No. 6: The U.S. Government Supports Facebook in TCPA Supreme Court Challenge in a “Game Changing” Development

When I compiled the list for this article, this one was a little surprising to me. I mean sure it is interesting that the Solicitor General’s office decided to join Facebook in arguing for a narrow interpretation of the TCPA’s ATDS definition before the Supreme Court. But for the article to garner SO MUCH attention in a year of huge development and TCPA upheaval is a bit shocking.

Either way, my big “Game Changer” piece breaking down the Government’s support of Facebook’s ATDS position clocks in at number 6 on our best read articles of the year.

No. 5: A District Court in Louisiana Issues the Most Financially Impactful Legal Ruling in American History

The TCPA is a dreadful little statute, mostly because no one knows what speech it applies to and yet it is often retroactively defined to crush speakers long after the speech is made.

It is with deep and poetic irony, therefore, that TCPA plaintiffs with seemingly valid suits found themselves crushed by a ruling that seems to have retroactively invalidated their claims.

Creasy.

It is a name that will stand in lore forever in TCPAWorld, but really it is a name that should be known the nation (and perhaps the world) over as the single most financially-significant ruling in the history of law.

Seriously.

Creasy held that all of the hundreds of billions of illegal robocalls made between 2015 and July 6, 2020 were no longer actionable under the TCPA. Since the TCPA affords a minimum of $500.00 in potential exposure for each call, the total exposure wiped away by Creasy in favor of robocallers of all types is at least in the hundreds of trillions of dollars. 

How big a number of that?

Well the entire domestic product OF THE EARTH in 2020 was $83.84 trillion. 

So, Creasy wiped away more debt than the entire value of everything everyone did last year combined– which also seems awkwardly appropriate.

I don’t know what’s more shocking– the fact that one district court judge could alter the financial landscape of the nation so profoundly with a single ruling, or that a single enactment could create such a ridiculously rich diamond mine of statutory damages to begin with.

To say that the Creasy decision is a big deal is a pretty massive understatement. Little wonder that my piece breaking down the Creasy ruling quickly rose to Number 5 on our best read articles of the year list.

No. 4: “Where is My Money?” — TCPA Class Action Edition

TCPAWorld.com has undoubtedly risen to be the internet’s top destination for legal news regarding the TCPA and telecom law–and it is also frequently visited by lay people who want to know where there settlement dollars are.

Indeed, TCPAWorld has become so well-read that some folks apparently mistake it for some sort of official court publication or notice service–WE ARE NEITHER OF THOSE THINGS– and I find myself routinely peppered with questions about TCPA class action administration from members of class settlements I have nothing to do with.

Unsurprisingly, folks looking to cash in on TCPA settlements will also hunt through TCPAWorld for information and–let’s face it–everyone gets a little curious about the big dollar settlements created by the TCPA ATM machine from time to time.

Put all this together and it starts to make sense why my seemingly non-impactful piece about a $933.00 a class member settlement back in February, 2020 has remained one of our most read pieces ever.

No. 3: Oral Argument is Held In Facebook and Everyone Tunes in to TCPAWorld.com for the Breakdown

Look, we’re not ESPN.

But when it comes to game-day hype of Supreme Court oral arguments, you just ain’t gonna beat TCPAWorld.com’s coverage. We came at the big Facebook argument from all angles– multiple podcasts, big interviews, webinars, pre and post-argument analysis, etc.

Yet it was my live feed of the argument that broke the internet with huge huge traffic. So many of you engaged with us that week it was really neat to see, and I love that TCPAWorld has become such a trusted go-to resource for so many many people. No surprise at all that my LIVE FEED of the Supreme Court oral argument in Facebook was the third best read piece of the year.

No. 2: The Supreme Court Destroys the First Amendment to Save the TCPA
Talk about a bad deal.
Hand over our most cherished Constitutional doctrines in exchange for a cruddy statute that doesn’t even work.
No thanks.
Yet that is exactly what the Supreme Court did in its seminal decision in AAPC. And my breakdown calling SCOTUS out for trading away our freedom of speech–converting the First Amendment into an ironing board as I famously coined– has (quite properly) remained one of our best read pieces of all time, and our second best read piece of 2020.
Enough said on that.
No. 1: Hackers Make TCPAWorld.Com Go Viral and It Gets Weird
Running a blog is funny.
You churn out thoughtful and insightful commentary and analysis, day in day out, and the stories that get big action are rarely those you spend the most time on.
Indeed, I chuckle when I write a post that takes me more than 2-3 hours because I know relatively few people are going to read it, despite all my sincere hard work to keep things light and easy to digest.
It seems like the harder you work on a post the less attention it will attract, and vice versa.
Apropos: In November, 2020 I came across this weird little case out of Oklahoma where a guy was peppering a local business owner with robocalls using some kind of out of date dialing program that looked like something out of War Games and this mind-melting backward talking website: www.buckysgasstationsucks.com.
I did a quick piece–probably took me 8 minutes to write, although I did spend about an hour gawking at this ridiculous website as part of my research–and thought I’d draw a meager 500-600 hits
Nope.
Somehow the story ended up on some hacker news aggregation site and quickly went viral–mostly I think because the hackers were fascinated by the archaic scripting used on the website and were trying to resurrect html from the mid-90s for sport, or to better serve Assange.. or something.
Well there you go folks- hope you enjoyed. And I love seeing so many of you visiting the site so early in 2020. Already drawing massive post-holiday traffic and its a wonderful thing to see. Happy New Year and chat soon.
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