Deven Alexis / Flickr Why Ajit Pai Cancelled his Appearance...
Deven Alexis / Flickr

Millions of suspected fraudulent comments that flooded in during the FCC’s comment period running up to its unpopular repeal of net neutrality protections have been linked to a former Trump campaign director’s organization and Roger Stone. Dell Cameron over at Gizmodo has done some serious research into many suspicious comments and the organizations that provided them to the FCC. Besides the obvious fraudulence, with the ostensible commenters saying that they never participated in the FCC comment period, there are some very interesting connections between the right-wing organizations that collected the comments and some shady actors we all know by name. Specifically, a player in this hodgepodge of suspected criminal activity called Free Our Internet, an anti-net neutrality campaign set up by Christie-Lee McNally, is deep in the thick of it, with hundreds of thousands of potentially phony comments collected for the net neutrality comment period.

McNally was Trump’s campaign director in Maine. She also worked on his inaugural committee, and her Free Our Internet campaign “is also the subject of one of 14 subpoenas issued in October by the New York attorney general’s office.” And, as Gizmodo points out, while there are many groups under investigation for the veracity of the comments they collected in their campaigns against net neutrality, Free Our Internet is a peculiar case.

By comparison, Free Our Internet has a small online footprint—this despite being the apparent source of upwards of 800,000 gathered comments. The organization’s submission page, meant to be the online portal through which all those comments were collected, has been tweeted no more than two dozen times. Free Our Internet’s website was boosted on occasion, however, by a few well-known characters on the far-right, such as longtime Trump adviser and self-described “dirty trickster” Roger Stone and his one-time friend, conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi.

A recap: After Ajit Pai’s FCC announced that it planned to roll back Obama-era net neutrality protections, things began to get really wacky. The comment system crashed; strange robocalls were made to scare older folks; and Pai went so far as to say that because fans of comedian John Oliver had flooded the system, the FCC could not be bothered to pay attention to the public outcry because the whole thing was a mess. Pai claimed that the FCC’s comment system had been under a cyber attack. It was a naked power grab, which was obvious to anyone with a single functioning sense. Subsequently, people began to ask questions about the nature of the distributed denial of service attack on the comment system.

Very quickly it became apparent that this cyber attack was fishy. Reports emerged that many of the anti-net neutrality comments were almost identical in wording, and many of the names on the emails were suspected to have been fraudulent, taken from stolen identities. New York’s attorney general pushed for a delay in the FCC vote, saying that his office had identified over 2 million fraudulent net neutrality comments. Pai went ahead and repealed the net neutrality protections. Since then, after Pai lied to Congress, it has become clear that he and his FCC have been obfuscating the truth of what actually happened during the comment period leading up to their net neutrality vote. In fact, there is evidence that they have actively sought to misdirect inquiries into the nature of the comment fraud.

Discussions of the suspects in the comment period fraud, include telecoms themselves—which have long fought against such consumer protections—have also included whispers of the same interferers implicated in the Trump election. In the fall, the New York Times sued the FCC to force the agency to release information it believes shows Russian interference in the comment period. Now people like Roger Stone are beginning to be indicted, and this rotten onion is peeled back one more layer.

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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.


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