I somehow found time to watch Avengers Infinity War over the weekend and I must say that I loved it, which just goes to show that—despite all of my power and glory—I am still just a giant nerd at heart. Seriously, it is probably the third best movie ever made. Good stuff.
Unfortunately, I also had to read a couple of new articles over the weekend suggesting that the robocall plague continues to get worse and worse in this country. It seems that no one has yet hit upon a solution to the problem.
So that got me thinking. What if Thanos had decided to use the Infinity Stones to stop robocalls, instead of trying to destroy half of all life in the universe? That would be a use of near-infinite power that everyone could get behind. And although it really shouldn’t take a shiny glove full of fictional elemental stones to stop unwanted telemarketing calls, nothing else seems to be working at this point so let’s give it as a shot.
Thanos could have used the Power Stone to finally give the FCC the unfettered ability to regulate calls to cell phones: The real problem preventing the FCC—the chief regulator responsible for stopping robocalls— from stopping unwanted robocalls to your cell phone is that Congress has never actually given it the power to do so. It’s a little known fact that the only statute giving the FCC the power to regulate calls to cell phones is the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”). But—due to Constitutional restraints (discussed below)— the TCPA was only designed to prevent calls from dialers that randomly or sequentially generate phone numbers—and that’s not much of an arsenal when it comes to battling a scourge of robocalls that easily outpaces even the massive army that the Black Order assaulted Wakanda with in the movie. To the FCC’s credit—sort of—it took it upon itself to expand the reach of the TCPA back in 2015 but the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeal just did the right thing and reminded the FCC that it is not allowed to do that. Only Congress can give the FCC the tools it needs to fight robocalls, which it simply has not chosen to do. True, Congressman Pallone—a Democrat from New Jersey— has just introduced a discussion draft bill that would somewhat broaden the scope of the TCPA, but all of these are really just half-measures. With the Power Stone in Thanos’ control, he could have afforded a complete delegation of authority to the FCC to regulate all calls to cell phones, which would undoubtedly result in a real and swift reduction in unwanted robocalls to American cell phone consumers. Plus Thanos could have rid Americans of a second plague—frivolous TCPA class actions—by taking that power away from class action attorneys and placing it in the hands of regulators where it belongs. (Really this would probably fix the entire problem, but since there are five more stones, let’s keep going.)
Thanos could have used the Space Stone to prevent robocall phishing schemes and make nefarious spam callers reveal themselves: Russian hackers aren’t just for spoiling democratic elections anymore, they often use their sophisticated technology skills for other mischief, like spam robocall phishing schemes that endanger American consumers. If only Thanos had used the Space Stone to deliver those evildoers to justice, rather than zipping around the cosmos causing his own brand of long-distance mayhem.
Thanos could have used the Reality Stone to make class action attorneys a little less rich: Ok I am going to hit this one twice because it really is a problem. One of the reasons the FCC cannot make more effective use of the TCPA is because it is not just the FCC that can make use of the TCPA. Everything the FCC does to expand the statute so that it can go after the real bad guys can also be taken advantage of by class action attorneys under the TCPA’s expansive private right of action. In essence, it is as if every class action lawyer in the country works for the FCC and can pursue people making robocalls in their own lawsuits in every court in the country for their own profit. Now that might sound like a good idea until you realize that virtually all of the private class action lawsuits today are brought against people who aren’t scammers making true robocalls, but legitimate businesses using efficient modern equipment to reach their customers to provide account-specific information. Contrast that with the FCC, who uses its powers for good—consistently targeting only the real robocalling villains out there. The reason for the disconnect is simple—the FCC isn’t in it to turn a profit and private class action lawyers are. Spam telemarketers generally don’t have much money—at least not money in easily-reachable American bank accounts–so they are not attractive targets for class action lawyers who usually like to get paid. Only legitimate American businesses have identifiable bank accounts full of green U.S. dollars, which is exactly why class action attorneys choose to sue them. And while the FCC enforcement actions bring real change—shutting down spoofers and crippling spam callers—private lawsuits seem to do nothing more than line the pockets of class action lawyers while class members consistently make pennies on the settlements that businesses often pay just to avoid the cost and inconvenience of expensive class litigation. It is all such a scam. But the biggest problem is that the FCC’s hands are tied because the broader the regulations they craft, the more legitimate businesses get swept up in these frivolous class actions. With the Reality Stone in hand, however, Thanos could have removed the blight of TCPA class actions from existence, assuring that consumers who are actually harmed by calls can still sue—in individual actions only— while freeing up the FCC to make aggressive moves against the real bad guys without needlessly harming good American businesses.
I have no idea what the Soul Stone actually does so I’m not sure how Thanos could have used it to stop robocalls. If you have some ideas, leave a comment!
Thanos could have used the Time Stone to modify the First Amendment to make real legislation challenging robocalls possible today: Now I am no fan of tinkering with the Constitution. Quite the contrary, I am on record describing the TCPA as the single-most expansive restriction on free speech and decrying society’s acceptance of the TCPA as demonstrating its waning appreciation for the First Amendment. That said, I am a very big fan of intellectual honesty. The First Amendment states “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech…” A law preventing telemarketers from robocalling you is a law—wait for it—abridging the freedom of speech. This is so because robocalls are a form of speech. Annoying pointless speech. But speech nonetheless. And regulating telemarketing calls in particular is a content-specific form of speech regulation which would definitely not be possible without an amendment to the First Amendment. (See what I did there?) We all know that amendments to the Constitution are harder to pass than a Coldstone on a hot day, but it is easy enough—for Thanos at least—to go back in time and have the First Amendment drafted properly in the first place. Had he done so he surely could have convinced Benjamin Franklin and company to interlineate the words “except for really annoying robocalls which Congress can totally clamp down on” with a big feather quill directly onto the hallowed parchment. An improvement that would have echoed through the ages.
Thanos could have used the Mind Stone to make everyone more aware of what these scammers are after so as to make the calls less profitable/desirable to make: Let’s face it, the reason there are still so many scam robocalls is because someone out there must still be falling for them. With the Mind Stone at his disposal, however, Thanos could have simply gifted everyone with the knowledge necessary to avoid falling for these scams and to otherwise stop these calls when they are received. Come to think of it, that’s a gift I can provide as well and I don’t even need some fancy yellow stone to do it. Check out these useful FTC and FCC resources so that you can better empower yourself to cut down on the robocall scourge.
Of course, with all six Infinity Stones Thanos can just snap his fingers and… half of all unwanted robocalls would disappear. Then Thanos could finally rest and smile at the true mercy he would have bestowed upon a grateful universe.