Call to action: Twitter etc not recognizing VOIP as texting-capable

Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge (SM-G935U)
Plan: My Choice + 1 GB

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After searching Republic Community, I’ve found that my problem has been festering for years with no end in sight. Frustrating, since it’s clearly a lack of app developers’ interest in making what are (in Twitter’s case at least) very simple changes. INDUSTRY & REGULATORY PRESSURE might force a fix by FCC and/or app developers. How about it guys? ATT offers a VOIP option - wouldn’t they make a powerful ally??

Description:
I was using Twitter without problems until early June, when I edited my account’s screen name.

The next time I used Twitter, I got a message saying the account was “limited” or “suspended” due to unusual activity.

I couldn’t log in to Twitter. When I tried, the home page was covered by a pop-up dialog asking me to verify my phone by accepting a SMS text and entering the code. When I tapped to proceed, Twitter responded: “Sorry, this carrier is currently not supported.”

A support robot message from help.twitter.com suggested changing my password, which I did successfully. However, this made no difference in the problem. Verify attempts still get the response “Sorry, this carrier is currently not supported.”

The likely explanation is that my phone provider, republicwireless.com, uses a hybrid WiFi VOIP / cellular algorithm to route phone calls and texts. If an online app’s server queries the phone number’s connection type, it shows up as “wireline” or “landline” rather than “wireless”. The server at this point may erroneously conclude the connection is a traditional land line, incapable of supporting SMS and MMS messaging.

My hybrid phone has had no problems for years using standard SMS and MMS messaging apps, as well as Twitter. I suspect that my profile edit kicked in a security check (a good thing) that invoked bad code which failed to recognize my phone number’s support for SMS (a bad thing).

Republic’s help forums are littered with complaints about failures on the part of certain online apps, including Twitter and Venmo, to recognize SMS support.

The problem is compounded by the difficulty of getting someone at Twitter to pay attention to it. It’s easy enough to open a ticket, but Twitter subsequently closes the ticket and takes no action on it.

Given that its business model is based on hybrid telephony, Republic (and other providers of VOIP over mobile phones) can hardly be expected to just drop VOIP functionality. Forcing platform apps like Twitter to fix this (if my analysis is correct) simple bug may require a combination of public, corporate, and regulatory action. Republic can play a leading role in this if it chooses to. Seems like a no-brainer to me.

Doug MacDonald

Hi Doug (@do1029ug3),

Some points from the for what it’s worth department. Republic is and has been trying to convince Twitter, Venmo, etc. to accept its numbers for some time. Something to keep in mind is compared to these enterprises, Republic is a small company. To date, these larger enterprises haven’t deemed it sufficiently in their interest to accommodate those of their customers who also do business with Republic.

Regarding potential regulatory action; I don’t know that the FCC would be the appropriate venue. The FCC regulates communications companies. While I suppose one might consider Twitter and other social media companies to be communications companies, I don’t believe they are regulated as such. Venmo and other financial services enterprises are certainly not regulated as communications companies. The FTC might be an option, however, I’m not particularly confident, they’d be interested.

Please understand none of the above is intended to suggest I disagree with your goal. In fact, I very much agree with it.

Finally, you may be able to solve your Twitter issue by using a Google Voice number rather than your Republic number. I’m aware Google Voice is VoIP but generally Twitter “supports” them. I’ll leave it to Twitter to explain that.

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Rolandh,

Thanks very much for your reply and explanations. Hoping the interplay of different views & information sharing can get something done!

My FCC angle is that (IMS) they used to administer the telephony monopoly in days of yore, and thus may have instituted the wireless/ wireline/ landline categories of service.

If so, we might be able to convince them that the Telecom-layered app companies are imposing an unlevel playing field on hybrid carriers, and might require the app makers to support messaging consistently over hybrid carriers.

They might be made to see the irony of my and others’ situations, in which most of the Twitter traffic functions just fine over a hybrid carrier until a two-step authentication is needed.

So, that was the basis of my FCC pitch.

Doug

Unfortunately the lobbying power of the big carriers likely makes this impossible. it was their lobbying power that created the current NIST standards that are causing these issues in the first place.

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Thanks, Louisdi.

I’d like to look into the history of this a little further to verify that the NIST standards process(es) didn’t simply miss the introduction of hybrid telephony & the need for an in-between category to allow SMS over a WiFi mobile telephone. Can anyone point me towards the NIST standards and committee minutes involved?

Doug

I think the pertinent passage is in NIST Special Publication 800-63: Digital Identity Guidelines :

Note that, among other requirements, even when using phone- and SMS-based one-time passwords (OTPs), the agency also has to verify that the OTP is being directed to a phone and not an IP address, such as with VoIP, as these accounts are not typically protected with multi-factor authentication.

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Thank you very much. Something to understand before I request a revision or reform, if I get that far…

Yet another site that does not allow VOIP for 2-factor authorization: pof.com

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