The major carriers (AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint) --and now many minor ones also--have aggressively increased their message filtering. The scope includes any text messages (single/group) or blasts which contain URLs, pictures, unknown "trigger words", and/or other factors and are sent using local numbers.
Although we have seen aggressive filtering by Sprint and T-Mobile in the US, such filtering has happened with most major and minor carriers in the US and Canada. In addition, carriers are not letting us know that the message was filtered. In other words, they are not sending a “blocked for carrier violation” error response to our servers.
Your message shows as delivered, but you or your subscribers didn’t actually receive it. Our “delivered” status log is reported in real time, and hence, we are only reporting what carriers are sending or not sending.
This false reporting by carriers is a crude way to trick spammers into thinking they are being successful and to limit their ability to game the system. However, this is bad as we can’t accurately report the message status. You may think someone received a message as it shows as ‘delivered’ when, in fact, it wasn’t.
Inside the US solution (when sending 1 on 1 text messages that include links)
Our best recommendation for inside the US
Send your messages and blasts via our shared Short Code.
Outside the US options
We have employed a number of workarounds in our system to help avoid the issues we are seeing.
Our best recommendation for outside the US
Use the secondary number route discussed above combined with a toll-free number. We think this is your best opportunity to send non-spammy, personalized bulk messages that would see the highest likelihood of making it through the current mobile carrier filtering changes.
Why do carriers have content and spam filters?
When subscribers receive messages they find objectionable, they may file complaints or report the carrier to governing bodies, seek damages or simply stop being a customer. All of these things reduce the revenue of or increase the costs for carriers. Thus, it is in the best interest of carriers to protect their subscribers from what they consider to be objectionable content.
How do carriers filter messages?
There is no standard practice for carrier filtering across all carriers. For some, filtering can range from a simple static list of prohibited terms to advanced, machine learning systems that work in real time. Regardless of the system, carriers keep their filtering systems closely guarded secrets. In turn, PastorsLine cannot say definitively how these systems work or why a particular message was filtered.
How do I know if my messages are being filtered?
PastorsLine does not always know or predict when a message has been filtered by a carrier. Some carriers falsely report filtered messages as 'delivered' to prevent spammers from reverse engineering filtering systems. In other cases, carriers will tell PastorsLine that a particular message has been filtered.
How do I prevent my messages from being filtered?
If you see an increase in carrier filtering of your messages, these questions provide some general guidelines for sending messages:
- Is it a good user experience?
A confusing message to users might seem like someone they don’t know has their contact information. Suspicious users are more likely to report messages to their carrier, and when messages are reported to carriers, it becomes very likely that future messages from that number or with similar content will be filtered. In some cases, the user may have forgotten that they requested the message. Also, how the message is formatted and written is important: overly long messages, overly capitalized messages, mysterious links, hyperbole, and using aggressive language can raise the level of suspicion users feel about a message.
- Do users have clear opt out instructions?
If users do not understand how to opt out, they may feel they have no choice but to contact their carrier to request that these messages are blocked.
- Is a single number being overworked?
In countries where rate-based filtering takes place, sending too many messages from a single phone number or alpha sender ID during a time period could cause that phone number or sender ID to be blacklisted.
FAQs about filtering in the United States and Canada
What filtering mechanisms are being used?
Carriers in the U.S. and Canada appear to be using adaptive (machine learning) software systems to protect their users. These systems take into account both the rate of send, as well as the content of the messages, and behave very much like email filtering systems. Messages receive a cumulative score based on how many messages have come from a phone number during a time period, how many similar messages have transited the carrier’s network or if the message contains content that makes it a high match for spam. Time periods are measured by the second, minute, hour, and day.
How many messages can be sent from a long code before filtering happens?
PastorsLine does not know a definitive number. However, we highly recommend following the guidelines mentioned in Messaging Principals and Basic Practices published by CTIA in Jan. 2017, where CTIA suggests that Application-To-Peer (A2P) Messaging that’s “consistent with typical human operation” should be expected to be deliverable across the messaging ecosystem. Some key attributes of typical human operation include:
- Throughput: 15-60 messages per minute
- Unique Recipients: 200 unique recipients a day (Our solution to increase this amount)
Carriers in the US sometimes report to PastorsLine when a message has been filtered. If you suddenly see that a large number of your messages are resulting in a status of “Undelivered” with a 30007 error, the carrier has taken some sort of action which has caused your message to be filtered.
I think my number has been blacklisted by a carrier. Can I get it removed from the blacklist?
No. However most blacklists in the US and Canada use a “cooling off” period, which means that most numbers will automatically be removed from the blacklist after a period of time. This period of time varies based on how many messages were blocked by the carrier from this number, and carriers do not share this time period with us.
Can I get my messages whitelisted by the carriers?
US Carriers do not whitelist messages from long code numbers. Short codes are essentially numbers which have been whitelisted for a particular type of pre-approved traffic. If you are sending many messages with identical content to a large number of users, you are at a high risk of having your messages filtered by carriers and should consider a short code.