NY Attorney General Investigating Why Dead People Supported The FCC's Attack On Net Neutrality
from the something-doesn't-smell-right dept
So as we’ve been noting for a while, the FCC’s policy order taking aim at net neutrality has been rife with all kinds of bizarre and fraudulent behavior, from the agency’s made up DDOS attack (apparently a ham-fisted PR attempt to downplay the “John Oliver effect”) to the numerous fake or otherwise dead people that have oddly supported the agency’s unpopular plan in the FCC’s comment proceeding. It’s clear the FCC’s plan is extremely unpopular, and it’s also clear the agency, ISPs and some policy groups have engaged in some extremely dodgy behavior to try and downplay that fact.
The GAO is already investigating the FCC’s bogus DDOS claims, and the FCC is already being sued for turning a blind eye to the problem and ignoring FOIA requests. The fraudulent comments by fake or otherwise non-breathing individuals will surely play a starring role in the inevitable lawsuits against the agency. If evidence is found that the FCC violated procedural norms (or hey, the law), it could help to reverse the agency’s myopic and unpopular hand out to the nation’s telecom duopolies.
The latest is that the New York Attorney General also acknowledged that his office has been looking into the fake comments submitted to the FCC’s net neutrality proceeding. Early analysis had found that a massive portion of the 22 million public comments on the agency’s plan came from a group or individual using a bot to stuff the ballot box with phony support for the plan. Many of these names were pulled from a hacked database of some kind, with many of the individuals in question stating they had never even visited the FCC website and have no idea what net neutrality even is.
Throughout all of this, the FCC has turned a blind eye to the fraud occurring on its website, likely because it helps the agency downplay the massive public backlash against the plan. And according to New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, the FCC rather unsurprisingly refused to aid his office in investigating what group or individual was behind the phony support, despite nine requests for data between June and November of this year:
“Specifically, for six months my office has been investigating who perpetrated a massive scheme to corrupt the FCC?s notice and comment process through the misuse of enormous numbers of real New Yorkers? and other 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.
We reached out for assistance to multiple top FCC officials, including you, three successive acting FCC General Counsels, and the FCC?s Inspector General. We offered to keep the requested records confidential, as we had done when my office and the FCC shared information and documents as part of past investigative work.
Yet we have received no substantive response to our investigative requests. None.”
It’s unlikely that the FCC is dumb enough to have engaged in this fraud itself. But the telecom sector is filled with ISP-funded proxy groups that have engaged in this kind of nonsense in the past. The FCC could easily put this issue to bed by providing a closer look at who used the necessary APIs to file these comments en masse. Of course that might expose not only the group responsible but the folks funding the effort, and we certainly wouldn’t want that.
As I found out personally, it’s clear the FCC approves of the fraud occurring on its website, because raising questions about the integrity of the public comment system allows it to downplay the groundswell of opposition to the plan. But if the truth comes out in AG investigations or the inevitable lawsuits expected later this year, the FCC’s victorious dismantling of popular consumer protections could prove to be short lived.