Google, through its subsidiary Slide, has developed a group-texting service called Disco. Disco allows customers to send bulk text messages to a large group of people using a telephone number provided by Disco. To use the Disco service, a customer signs up and then provides up to 99 members to the group by giving Disco the group members' names and cell phone numbers. People who have been placed in a group can opt-out. The Disco software allows everyone who has been placed in a group to send messages to all group members. Once a group is created, the Disco service sends an automated text message to the group members on behalf of the group leader. This introductory text includes information about the Disco service. According to the complaint, filed by an individual who created a Disco account, the group leader is not notified that this text is being sent on his or her behalf. And, in the plaintiff's case, this initial message resulted in his phone receiving so many messages (complaining about the automated introduction to the Disco group), it jammed his phone, rendering it unusable. He thus filed suit against Google and its subsidiary, Slide, arguing that the two companies had sent unsolicited messages in violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which requires companies to obtain consent before sending text messages using automatic dialing systems. The same attorney who brought the case against Google and Slide has also filed a similar lawsuit against GroupMe and Twilio, over another group texting service (created by GroupMe and provided over the Twilio platform), on behalf of another consumer plaintiff.
TIP: Companies should keep in mind that laws regulating text messages, unlike email messages, require that in most cases consent be obtained before a message is sent. This means that some of the same "bulk" or "viral" programs that can be created for sending email messages may not be acceptable under text message laws. While group texting service providers might be able to argue that they should not be responsible for the messages sent by users, this defense has not yet been tested.