Selective anti-robocall statute violates First Amendment

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

The late Hitchbot gets a kiss last year in Victoria, British Columbia. He wouldn't have gotten as many kisses if he had been a robocaller.

Today's Fourth Circuit decision in Cahaly v. Larosa strikes down a South Carolina anti-robocall statute on the grounds that it's impermissibly content-based. The statute barred automated calls for sales or goods or services, as well as "calls of a political nature including, but not limited to, calls relating to political campaigns." This, the Fourth Circuit held, was unconstitutionally content-based, since robocalls with certain messages were singled out for prohibition while robocalls with other messages were allowed (e.g., genuine opinion surveys, calls with ideological but not "political" messages, calls with religious messages, and so on).

Sounds like the right ruling to me, given the court's general hostility to content-based restrictions—even ones that are content-based but viewpoint-neutral—which was recently reaffirmed in Reed v. Town of Gilbert.

Thanks to professor Ron Collins for the pointer.