Millions of people have weighed in with the Federal Communications Commission to protect net neutrality, the foundation of the open internet. Since the 2016 election and the total Republican takeover of our government—including the installation of hard-right Ajit Pai at the helm of the FCC, the anti-net neutrality forces seem to have burgeoned. Except they haven’t. The millions of anti-open internet comments the FCC has received this year are almost certainly faked.
Hundreds of thousands of actual Americans’ identities were stolen, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has found, and the FCC has fought every effort to disclose that.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman started to investigate after noticing many of these comments involved people in New York. There was an unexpected roadblock along the way: the FCC declined to cooperate with his office’s investigation, he said, rebuffing requests for logs and other records associated with the comments. […]
Schneiderman wrote that the FCC’s public comment process for the regulation change, which is required by law, “has been corrupted by the fraudulent use of Americans’ identities.”
“Such conduct likely violates state law—yet the FCC has refused multiple requests for crucial evidence in its sole possession that is vital to permit that law enforcement investigation to proceed,” he wrote. “In doing so, the perpetrator or perpetrators attacked what is supposed to be an open public process by attempting to drown out and negate the views of the real people, businesses, and others who honestly commented on this important issue.”
Data scientist Jeff Kao has analyzed millions of comments using natural language processing techniques to pick out the spam bots, and found at least 1.3 million fake comments, though he suspects that “the sum of fake pro-repeal comments in the proceeding may number in the millions.”
By his calculations, “more than 99% of the truly unique comments were in favor of keeping net neutrality.” Despite the overwhelming evidence that the public wants to see net neutrality preserved, it looks like the FCC is going to use the fake comments to ignore public comments altogether. When it was evident that the comment system was being spammed, the FCC did nothing to prevent it, and has kept obviously faked comments in the docket. It seems that’s by design, as ArsTechica’s Jon Brodkin speculates. “Allowing the docket to be filled with junk made it easier for Pai’s office to argue that the comments should not be seen as a legitimate expression of public opinion.”
Pai is going to ignore what the American people want, and give the internet away to a few players like Comcast and Verizon. He’s doing it fraudulently, by ignoring cheating and lying. Because of course he is. That’s how Republicans get everything they want. With comments closed at the FCC, our best bet now is to exert the maximum pressure on Congress, to let them know how this decision will factor in to the next election.