Blockchain didn’t end spam in India, regulator now trying AI • The Register


The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has announced a new campaign against TXT spam, this time using artificial intelligence, after a previous blockchain-powered effort yielded mixed results.

TRAI’s approach to managing spam, or Unsolicited Commercial Communication (UCC), as it prefers to describe it, prompted the regulator to create a mandatory registry of telemarketers and telecommunications service providers, and required them to obtain the subscription of the recipients of the messages. A blockchain-powered application recorded the details of more than 250,000 major telemarketing entities, along with the message headers and message templates they use.

While that app didn’t always work as plannedthe TRAI yesterday fixed [PDF] its recent efforts have reduced customer complaints about UCC by 60 percent, within the borders of India.

However, complaints persist because many unregistered telemarketers have not registered with the regulator’s application. These rogues continue to spam and make unwanted phone calls.

TRAI’s response is new initiatives aimed at tracking the activity of telemarketers who flout the law.

“These steps include: implementation of the UCC detection system, provision of Digital Consent Acquisition, intelligent cleaning of Headers and Messages templates, use of AI (Artificial Intelligence) and ML (Machine Language), etc.”, announced the regulator.

The TRAI has also formed a “Joint Committee of Regulators” which will see it join with the Reserve Bank of India, the Ministry of Consumer Affairs and the Securities and Exchange Board of India to address the financial damage caused by UCC.

Hundreds of millions of spam messages reach Indian residents every day, with scammers targeting SMS, messaging services like WhatsApp, and voice services.

The spam blocking team that Truecaller has identified a single Indian phone spammer who made 202 million calls in 2021 alone.

Many spam TXTs and calls also originate from India, or seem to, and appear outside the nation as a contact of someone with a +91 prefix on their phone number.

Estimates of revenue from scams sent via spam text messages and calls regularly run into the several billions. Bad guys have plenty of incentives to stay bad. Regulators around the world will no doubt be keeping an eye on TRAI’s AI-powered efforts to target unregulated telemarketers. And hoping they do. ®