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FCC Levies $10M Election Spoofing Fine

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel
(Image credit: FCC)

The FCC is levying an almost $10 million fine for spoofed robocalls targeting a California state election.

The Enforcement Bureau forfeiture ($9,997,750 to be exact) against Kenneth Mosther for unlawfully altering caller ID info (spoofing) was announced and approved unanimously at the FCC's Nov. 18 virtual public meeting.

The calls had been referred to the FCC by the California Secretary of State.

The FCC said the spoofer made over 47,000 calls to spread misinformation about the campaign.

While the other commissioners passed on meeting statements on the enforcement action, commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel suggested more such actions may be needed.

She pointed out that, in this case, "one week before a state primary [in 2018], this robocall campaign featured allegations about sexual assault by a candidate that ultimately resulted in the accuser pleading guilty to making a false report of a crime."

She said the fine had her full support, but that it was not the only election-related robocall campaign that needed the FCC's attention. "Just two weeks ago there were reports that millions of robocalls were also using spoofed numbers to spread misinformation in advance of the November election," she said. "[I]f these calls ran afoul of the tools we have to protect consumers—like the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, Truth in Caller ID Act, and TRACED Act—this agency needs to
act.

The FBI has been investigating a robocall in advance of the election with some variation of the message: "Stay home and stay safe." While it did not mention the election, but the campaign struck some as smacking of voter suppression.