T-Mobile Takes Aim at Businesses, Not Individuals, with Penalties for ‘Inappropriate’ Texts | Fact Check
The assertion: T-Mobile revises its terms to penalize users for sending ‘inappropriate’ personal text messages.
A post on Instagram from December 26, 2023, (direct link, archive link) features a video where a woman claims that T-Mobile has modified its terms of service to impose fines on customers for the content of their text messages.
In the video, she states, “T-Mobile has just updated their terms of service, and now, if you post any content they don’t agree with, they will fine you.”
The video claims the fines are for “texts they deem ‘harmful,'” emphasizing that this applies to personal messages.
“Since when does a company get to determine what you are allowed to talk about in a private text message to a friend?” she questions in the video.
This post garnered over 30,000 likes in six days and a similar claim circulated on X (formerly Twitter) by conservative activist Laura Loomer.
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Our assessment: False
The fines are targeted at third-party vendors responsible for mass-marketing text messages for businesses, not individual users, clarified the company. Customers’ terms of service remain unchanged, and T-Mobile asserts it cannot regulate personal text messages.
Fines applicable to third-party vendors, not consumers
The wireless industry categorizes text messages into two types: those between individuals and those sent by non-consumers in application-to-person (A2P) messaging. Businesses or third-party vendors typically send the latter, including notifications related to billing and marketing.
As per the information provided by an anonymous T-Mobile spokesperson to USA TODAY, the fines mentioned in the Instagram post only apply to third-party vendors sending commercial messages violating standards set by the CTIA, the wireless industry’s trade group. The spokesperson stressed that consumers won’t face fines for personal texts, and the company has not altered its terms of service.
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“The change only impacts third-party messaging vendors that send commercial mass messaging campaigns for other businesses,” the spokesperson said in an email. “The vendors will be fined if the content they are sending does not meet the standards in our code of conduct, which is in place to protect consumers from illegal or illicit content and aligns to federal and state laws.”
T-Mobile maintains it cannot and does not censor or review customers’ text messages. However, it uses filters to block spam, phishing attempts, or other malware, according to the spokesperson.
The text in the video and on X closely resembles a paragraph on a communications company’s website, which contracts with businesses for sending such messages. Notably, the video and X post omit the mention of the “A2P” acronym. Similar notices about the changes were found on the websites of communications companies Sakari and Vonage.
T-Mobile unveiled a three-tiered fine schedule in December 2023, effective January 1. Vendors sending mass messages deemed harmful to consumers face penalties ranging from $2,000 (for phishing or attempts to manipulate private information) to $500 (for content violating its code of conduct).
Additionally, the speaker in the Instagram video incorrectly asserts that a violation of “SHAFT” content (sex, hate, alcohol, firearms, and tobacco) would result in fines “in the thousands” of dollars. The actual penalty for such a violation is $500, as indicated in both notices posted on company websites and the text shown in the video.
The Associated Press and Lead Stories also debunked the claim.