Judge Rules Political Robocalls Are Protected By First Amendment

Trailrunner7 quotes a report from On the Wire: A federal judge has ruled that robocalls made on behalf of political candidates are protected by the First Amendment and cannot be outlawed. The decision came in a case in Arkansas, where political robocalls had been illegal for more than 30 years. On Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge Leon Holmes ruled that banning political robocalls amounts to an infringement of free speech protections and also constitutes prior restraint of speech. Political campaigns have been using robocalls for decades, and some states have sought to ban them, arguing that they are intrusive and violate recipients’ privacy. In the Arkansas case, the state attorney general put forward both of these arguments, and also argued that the calls can tie up phone lines, making them unusable in an emergency. Holmes said in his decision that there was no evidence that political robocalls prevent emergency communications, and also said that the Arkansas statute should have banned all robocalls, not just commercial and political ones. “The statute at issue here imposes a content-based restriction on speech; it is not one of the rare cases that survives strict scrutiny. The state has failed to prove that the statute at issue advances a compelling state interest and is narrowly tailored to serve that interest,” Holmes wrote.


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