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Forbidden Message Categories in the US and Canada (Short Code, Toll-Free, and Long Code)

The messaging use cases described below are strictly prohibited on SMS and MMS platforms in the United States and Canada. These guidelines apply to Short Code, Toll-Free, and Long Code messaging under the new A2P 10DLC system. We want to ensure that our messaging services remain compliant with regulations and carrier requirements.

At Twilio, we prioritize compliance and aim to provide clear guidelines to ensure seamless communication while upholding regulatory standards. If you have any questions or need further clarification, our dedicated support team is here to assist you. Feel free to reach out to us for any assistance you may require by submitting a customer support ticket.

For comprehensive details on preventing your Twilio messages from being filtered or blocked, please refer to the guide: How do I prevent my Twilio messages from being filtered (blocked).

Forbidden Use Cases

Certain types of messages are not allowed, and we take these restrictions seriously to maintain a safe and reliable messaging environment for all users. It is essential to refrain from engaging in the following activities listed in the table below. Please note that these forbidden use cases are not only related to the content of the message but the business type itself.

Additional Restrictions

Even if your specific use case is not listed as prohibited, certain message content may still be subject to restrictions. For instance, the use of shared or free public URL shorteners is not permitted and will lead to filtering. Ensure that when using a shortened URL it is company branded.

 

Forbidden message categories for SMS/MMS in the US/Canada

Category Examples Notes
High-risk financial services
  • Payday loans
  • Short term high-interest loans
  • New loan soliciting
  • Third-party loans
  • Student loans
  • Cryptocurrency
  • Stocks and investing platforms

"Third-party" means originating from any party other than the one which will service the loan.

Examples of third-party loans could include: auto, mortgage, personal, etc.

First party loan content is acceptable if it is not promotional messaging, unless it is on an approved Short Code.

Businesses that solely operate in stocks,  investing, or cryptocurrency are only permitted to send SMS traffic that is 2FA and/or transactional messaging. If there is a mixed use case where that is a partial aspect of the business it may be approved based on the other use case content

Third-party lead generation services and marketing
  • Companies, NGOs or political campaigns that buy, sell, or share consumer information.
  • Affiliate lending
  • Affiliate marketing
  • Deceptive marketing

Any third-party use cases are strictly forbidden. Consent must be obtained directly from end-users. 

Political use case customers sending SMS messages are not able to use voter registration databases to collect consent and outreach end-users. 

Any business with a terms of service or privacy policy that mentions sharing or selling consumer data/opt-in information is considered noncompliant.

Debt collection or forgiveness
  • Third-party debt collection
  • Debt consolidation
  • Debt reduction
  • Debt relief
  • Credit/debt repair

"Third-party" means originating from any party other than the one who is owed the debt. For example, a hospital could send messages regarding bills for its own patients, assuming they provided opt-in to receive that messaging.

While third party debt collection is not permitted, a debt collection business that has direct consent from end-users to send related content may do so.

Debt consolidation, debt reduction and credit repair programs are prohibited regardless if there is first-party consent.

“Get rich quick” schemes
  • Deceptive work-from-home programs
  • Risk investment opportunities
  • Pyramid schemes
  • Mystery Shopping
  • Multi Level Marketing (MLM)


Use cases in this category pertain to minimal effort for maximum and/or guaranteed financial gains. These categories in the telecoms industry produce high consumer complaints and are not permissible on carrier routes.

Multi-Level Marketing (MLM), it is acceptable for consultants to message other consultants the following: products, events, delivery notifications, and promotional information content. Consultants, are not allowed to promote products to consumers/customers, nor are they allowed to promote becoming a consultant.

 

Illegal substances/articles
  • Cannabis
  • CBD
  • Kratom
  • Paraphernalia products
  • Vape/E-cigs
  • Fireworks

Cannabis, CBD, Kratom, or drug paraphernalia product businesses are prohibited from utilizing SMS/MMS messaging on Twilio in the US and Canada, regardless of content. These restrictions apply regardless of the federal or state legality. All use cases for these are disallowed from sending SMS whether it contains cannabis content or not, even for 2FA purposes it is not permissible for such entities.

Prescription drugs
  • Drugs that require a prescription
Offers for drugs that cannot be sold over-the-counter in the US/Canada are forbidden regardless if the business is a licensed professional.
Gambling
  • Casino apps
  • Websites that offer gambling
  • Sweepstakes
  • 50/50 Raffles
  • Contests
  • Betting/Sports picks

Gambling traffic is prohibited in the US and Canada on all number types (Toll Free, Short Code, Long Code).

Sweepstakes are allowed on Short Code but need to go through a special review.

Bingo related messages are allowed on an approved Short Code. Community or local based Bingo related messaging are also permissible on carrier networks.

"S.H.A.F.T." use cases and electronic smoking devices 
  • Sex
  • Hate
  • Alcohol
  • Firearms
  • Tobacco
  • Vape/E-ciggs

Alcohol traffic is allowed on Toll Free, Short Code, and Long Code in the US, as long as proper age gating procedures are in place. Age gating means that website users must input their date of birth. It cannot be a yes or no question.

Firearms, Tobacco, Vape, and E-cigarettes are not allowed on Toll Free, Short Code, or Long Code regardless of age gating. Gun advocacy groups/messaging does not fall under Firearms.

All age-gated content into Canada must be blocked across Toll Free, Short Code, and Long Code. The only way to send age-gated traffic into Canada (even with proper age-gating) is to receive a special carrier exemption. Allowed age gated content in Canada include: pocket knives, lighters, and non-alcoholic beverages

Notice: Any use cases that violate Twilio's Acceptable Use Policy or Messaging Policy are also not allowed on Twilio's platform, regardless of number/sender type or destination country.

My use case is listed as forbidden. What can I do?

If your use case is listed above as forbidden for SMS and MMS messaging in the US, you may be able to use another Twilio product to reach your recipients.

The Twilio Sendgrid Email API is an option for many of the above use cases. For example, cannabis- or CBD-related messaging may be conducted via email, as long as you have proper age gating (requiring a date of birth from website users) in place and are sending toward recipients in a locale where the substance is legal. In addition, the Twilio Programmable Voice product is not subject to the same carrier restrictions as SMS.

For more information about cannabis-related messaging alternatives, see Can I send cannabis or CBD-related messaging traffic on Twilio?

To learn more about how your use case could work on Twilio, talk to Sales.

Updated August 21st, 2023

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