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Blockchain couldn't stop TXT spam in India, regulator now trying AI

Maybe – just maybe – messages and calls from +91 might become more trustworthy

India's Telecom Regulatory Authority (TRAI) has announced a fresh crackdown on TXT spam – this time using artificial intelligence, after a previous blockchain-powered effort delivered mixed results.

The TRAI's approach to managing spam – or Unsolicited Commercial Communication (UCC) as it prefers to describe it – saw the regulator create a mandatory register of telemarketers and telecoms service providers, and require them to secure opt-ins from message recipients. A blockchain-powered application recorded the particulars of over 250,000 principal entities that conduct telemarketing activities, plus the message headers and message templates they use.

While that app didn't always work as planned, the TRAI yesterday stated [PDF] its recent efforts reduced customer complaints about UCC by 60 percent, within India's borders.

Complaints persist, however, because plenty of unregistered telemarketers haven't signed up for the regulator's app. These rapscallions continue to send spam, and to make unwanted phone calls.

The TRAI's response is fresh initiatives aimed at tracking the activity of scofflaw telemarketers.

"These steps include: implementation of UCC detect system, provision of Digital Consent Acquisition, intelligent scrubbing of the Headers & Message templates, using AI (Artificial Intelligence) & ML(Machine Language), etc.," the regulator announced.

The TRAI has also formed a "Joint Committee of Regulators" that will see it join with India's Reserve Bank, the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, and Securities & Exchanges Board of India to tackle the financial harm caused by UCC.

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

Spam-blocking outfit Truecaller has identified a single Indian phone spammer that placed 202 million calls in 2021 alone.

Plenty of spam TXTs and calls also originate in India – or appear to do so – and pop up outside the nation as a contact from someone with a +91 prefix on their phone number.

Estimates of the proceeds of scams delivered using spam TXTs and calls regularly reach multiple billions. The bad guys have lots of incentive to keep bad guying. Regulators around the world will no doubt be watching the TRAI's AI-fueled efforts to target unregulated telemarketers. And hoping they succeed. ®

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