S.H.A.F.T. and Prohibited SMS Content in the US & Canada

      S.H.A.F.T. and Prohibited SMS Content in the US & Canada

        Article summary


        SMS & Email
        Supported plans

        Free, Starter, Pro, Premium, Enterprise

        eCommerce Platform

        Shopify, Shopify Plus

        This information is not legal advice. While we do our best to provide useful information to use as a starting point, Yotpo SMS & Email advises all merchants to obtain professional legal advice to ensure that all marketing campaigns are sent in full compliance with all applicable laws.

        Just like any other marketing channel, SMS follows strict regulations, industry standards, and guidelines. Before using it to market products, promote sales, or simply communicate with shoppers, you must be familiar with the guidelines on prohibited or limited content. At Yotpo SMS & Email, we look after our users and want to make sure you send only the highest quality messages to your subscribers, compliant with all regulations, and respectful of customers.

        The following article will go through those prohibited or limited-content categories and explain how Yotpo SMS & Email enforces restrictions.

        These guidelines are aimed at merchants who wish to use SMS marketing in the US & Canada.

        Prohibited or limited message categories

        Federally illegal substances

        This category includes all federally illegal substances such as:

        • Marijuana/cannabis (including CBD)
        • Vaping
        • Prescription medication
        • Kratom (labeled as a controlled substance by the DEA)
        All are strictly prohibited for SMS marketing -Yotpo SMS & Email does not onboard brands selling these, no exceptions.

        Merchants who promote federally illegal substances will be blocked, will not be able to send messages in the US & Canada, and will see the following banner on their SMS & Email dashboard.


        The View Settings button will take you to your Country Limitations, where you can see which countries are blocked from receiving SMS/MMS messages from your store.

        Country limitations

        If your account has been blocked, please contact the support team.


        S.H.A.F.T. is an acronym that stands for Sex, Hate, Alcohol, Firearms, and Tobacco. It outlines the categories of text messages specifically regulated due to moral and legal issues and is monitored and enforced by the CTIA and the mobile carriers.

        Sex (adult content), Alcohol, Firearms, and Tobacco are federally legal and can be marketed through SMS as long as a functioning age-gate is in place. The age-gate needs to prompt the user to enter their birthdate, rather than just click “Yes” to approve that they’re over 21.

        S.H.A.F.T can only be sentvia designated short codes and not via toll-free Numbers. To apply for a designated short code, contact us.

        Although not technically a law, the S.H.A.F.T. guidelines should be taken seriously by anyone using SMS to communicate with consumers to comply with the CTIA best practices and carriers’ requirements.

        Other Prohibited Content

        Other than the S.H.A.F.T. content restrictions, the CTIA also calls out several different message categories that must be excluded from all SMS communications:

        • Depictions and endorsement of violence
        • Profanity
        • Hate/discriminatory speech

        Refer to the CTIA’s Handbook, section A.5, for additional information.

        Carrier SPAM Mitigation

        Mobile carriers are not only responsible for the distribution of text message content but act as gatekeepers between a brand and its customers. Each mobile carrier has the right to issue its own guidelines when it comes to text message content. For example, such content may include high-risk financial services, gambling, multi-level marketing, etc.

        We strongly advise you to familiarize yourself with local mobile carriers’ guidelines, the existing laws, and the industry’s best practices. In addition, go through our Terms of Service, section 4, to review our limitations of use.

        Occasionally exceptions are made for specific use cases, but only after scrutiny by the service provider and mobile carrier. Reach out to us if you have a request or question about any of the above-mentioned policies and regulations. We are happy to discuss alternative ways to market to your audience and remain compliant with both the TCPA and CTIA guidelines.

        This is the prohibited or limited content you should be familiar with before sending promotional messages in the US & Canada. Don’t hesitate to go to our Knowledge Base for more useful articles, or contact us if you have any questions or feedback.

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