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.

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Comments on “NY Attorney General Investigating Why Dead People Supported The FCC's Attack On Net Neutrality”

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46 Comments
ShadowNinja (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Ironically the greatest mistake Pai made was claiming the FCC site was hacked when it went down from the massive surge of visitors due to John Oliver’s Net Neutrality skit.

It exposes how corrupt and technically inept the FCC is even more if they first claim they were hacked, even though no one else saw any evidence of it.

But then everyone points to strong evidence of bots spamming the site with fake comments, and the FCC acts like nothing is amiss.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Personally I don’t want to actually have a Net Neutrality law but I prefer the lesser of two evils. If there was actual broadband competition then there wouldn’t be a need for Net Neutrality as people could easily switch. Until that happens, Net Neutrality needs to stay up. If NN fails, I do have a plan for a VPS solution so at least all my traffic is encrypted. Will lose a little bandwidth but at least Comcast can’t shape the traffic for their benefit.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

They already exist. Many places only have 1 source for broadband internet. Additionally, there are all sorts of local and state laws helping keep these “monopolies” in place. That does not even get into the challenges of creating new competition.

The current laws and NN encourage and bless monopolistic behavior. Like one person said… the lesser of two evils… but still evil.

We need competition, something regulation and capitalism is standing against.

Wendy Cockcroft (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

Regulation can create competition, if properly applied. Market forces can’t fix this because the game is rigged. What we need to do is dismantle all of the protectionist laws that allow ISPs to capture entire market areas so that they’re the only providers in that place.

A regulation insisting that local enterprises, including municipalities, can set up their own broadband if they want to, can then be enacted, followed by one that bans ISPs from nickel-and-diming the last mile by throttling services competing with their own.

Anonymous Coward says:

OH, NOW you want 3rd-party liability! Hold FCC liable for bots, eh?

“As I found out personally,” — Four days off, and return whining AGAIN of your personal butthurt among millions.

“it’s clear the FCC approves of the fraud” — That’s a false claim: what you mean is FCC knew, therefore in your mind it’s guilty.

Your whole argument is DOOM based on predictions, but that NEVER happens in reality: it’s just that some corporations are advantaged, and others less so. So you’re just arguing for the corporations that you favor, under the claim that it’s good for the public. — What’d be good for the public is to tax ALL corporations to verge of collapse.

And again, if you kids think that the decision will be overturned (because of worst case fraud / knowing / prejudice / conspiracy, you’re just plain wrong.

aerinai says:

Re: OH, NOW you want 3rd-party liability! Hold FCC liable for bots, eh?

Making up a DDOS attack and giving no evidence seems like they are hiding something.

Refusing to release information that would help catch these fraudsters seems like they are hiding something.

3rd Party Liability, as you claim, is not what this article is talking about. It is the obstruction of justice that the FCC is liable for.

And these ‘Doom’ predictions are based in a long stream of this things call ‘history of bad behavior’. I know ‘facts’ are not very popular in this political climate anymore, but let me lay a few out for you before you shout ‘fake news’ at the top of your lungs and burst a blood vessel:

AT&T forcibly blocking FaceTime, a legal and legitimate app that was written by Apple. AT&T forced their users to upgrade their phone plan before enabling it.

Comcast blocking Bit Torrent for no other reason than it could

Verizon adding a ‘zombie cookie’ to track users around the web, without consent, and it ALSO was found to be susceptible to malicious use cases leaving customers less safe.

Comcast and other ISPs letting their colo connections clog and slow down Netflix and YouTube all because they wanted to tax these companies twice. While technically not apart of Net Neutrality; the verbiage that says unfair business practices will be looked at on a case-by-case basis is also being rolled back.

I don’t see how any of the above is acceptable behavior. I also don’t see how this is even controversial. My Thanksgiving was spent with non-techies bringing up and lamenting this absolutely ridiculous state of affairs. These are people that use computers for email and Netflix and they are talking about it!

The vast majority of the United States populace agrees that additional roadblocks, tolls, or degradation of legal content should be illegal. Net Neutrality is needed since the ISPs refuse to ‘self regulate’ themselves.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: OH, NOW you want 3rd-party liability! Hold FCC liable for bots, eh?

So if it isn’t fraud then what is it? Why else would you stone wall an attorney general or FOIA requests other than to hide something. Now if it was private property then they would need a warrant but this is public. Personally, I think the whole administration at the FCC should be fired just for not releasing public information as required.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: OH, NOW you want 3rd-party liability! Hold FCC liable for bots, eh?

Delay. Most likely it is primarily a delay.

There are many advantages to fueling an active investigation: As long as they can keep the investigation going, they have not been officially found to have done anything wrong. As long as that is enough for a majority of representatives, the effect is a non-issue for the agency. Furthermore, investigations present opportunities to taking the fifth, non-interference with an active investigation for FOIA and several other very effctive ways to stone-wall and deter public critique. There is also the silence-treatment to make the shitstorm go away, which starts by stopping the media from getting more newsworthy informations.

All in all, fraud and smaud are irrelevant to the goal. Making American corruption great again, one agency at a time!

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: OH, NOW you want 3rd-party liability! Hold FCC liable for bots, eh?

Wow, so much nonsense in a single comment!

The FCC has clear knowledge of the fraud going on in its site (ie: Mike contacted them personally to point out the fraud and multiple experts have denounced the bot comments plus the dead) and yet it has done nothing to prevent, mitigate or remove the fraudulent comments. I don’t know in what country/planet you live but any corporation doing this would be very screwed (see Backpage).

It’s holding the FCC liable for knowing exactly what’s going on and doing absolutely nothing.

Of course I don’t expect you to grow a brain and understand but it’s a good example of where liability kicks in. Or should kick in.

McGyver (profile) says:

I fully expect that Pai’s next tactic will be to argue that zombies and dead people have the right to voice their opinions too…
Would it really be any less disingenuous or ridiculous than anything that comes out of his mouth at this point?
It’s clear the FCC supports and condones any tactics the ISPs use to push their agenda… Including fraud.
Willfully ignoring fraudulent comments blatantly shows who is pulling Pai’s strings.

Anonymous Coward says:

The whole net neutrality thing is confusing for me. My understanding is; The FCC is pretty much at the whim of whatever administration currently has power. Example; When it was voted on for it’s creation (Net Neutrality), it was a partisan vote. My guess is when it is destroyed, it will also be a partisan vote. The rules and regulations for these agencies seem to be a moving target. Seem’s wasteful to me.

Instead of putting these policies into the hands of an organization that is at the whim of whatever administration happens to be in office at the time, why don’t they just reach across the isle, negotiate something together, then write it into law? The FCC seems to me that it should be an enforcement arm, not a policy making body.. just my opinion.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The whole net neutrality thing is confusing for me. My understanding is; The FCC is pretty much at the whim of whatever administration currently has power. Example; When it was voted on for it’s creation (Net Neutrality), it was a partisan vote. My guess is when it is destroyed, it will also be a partisan vote. The rules and regulations for these agencies seem to be a moving target. Seem’s wasteful to me.

Except, by law, the FCC can’t just swing back and forth. By law (and Supreme Court mandate), the FCC cannot changes any agency rules in an "arbitrary and capricious" manner — meaning they need to show strong evidence for why the change is necessary. This is why I think Pai knows that the rules he’s putting in place won’t survive the inevitable court challenge. Because he has to show that there have been significant and meaningful changes in the market since the 2015 order, which has already been approved by the courts.

I don’t see how he can do that.

So it’s not as easy as the FCC just snapping its fingers. The rules are designed to be difficult to change. Hell, it took the FCC basically 12 years to figure out that it needed to move broadband back to Title II, and by then it had lots of evidence to support the reasons for that move.

MyNameHere (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I think you are being a little wishful here.

“Except, by law, the FCC can’t just swing back and forth. By law (and Supreme Court mandate), the FCC cannot changes any agency rules in an “arbitrary and capricious” manner — meaning they need to show strong evidence for why the change is necessary. This is why I think Pai knows that the rules he’s putting in place won’t survive the inevitable court challenge. Because he has to show that there have been significant and meaningful changes in the market since the 2015 order, which has already been approved by the courts.”

I don’t think any specific change needs to be shown, only an indication that the current regulations have done little to improve things in the slightest.

I also think that as connection speeds continue to rise as the incumbent players maintain and upgrade their networks in the normal manner, the questions that were “addressed” by NN are slowly going away. Remember, NN is essentially the Netflix rules package, created because ISPs were resistant to adding tons of bandwidth to support someone else’s business model.

Many of the ISPs are now increasing their own internal network capacity as they move towards delivering TV as IPTV rather than cable, and they see the need to raise their own network capacity.

Internet speeds to US homes has, on average nearly doubled in 2 years.

https://www.statista.com/statistics/616210/average-internet-connection-speed-in-the-us/

So there are plenty of changes, and the trend of change for network speed is up.

Put another way, it’s hard to point to anything specifically that says “it’s working”. At this point, it’s not that hard for Pai to make the point that putting internet services under title II was nothing more than a power grab that isn’t specifically supported by legislation. Aside from taking control of the internet, as it were, Title II hasn’t accomplished anything.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I don’t think any specific change needs to be shown, only an indication that the current regulations have done little to improve things in the slightest.

So let me get this straight, despite everything the Supreme Court and administrative law have said, the FCC doesn’t need to show what’s changed? Based on… what exactly? Because the Supreme Court says you’re wrong.

Meanwhile you totally contradict your own argument. First, you say that the regulations haven’t improved anything… and then you immediately state that speeds have doubled over the past few years, so they don’t need NN any more.

Many of the ISPs are now increasing their own internal network capacity as they move towards delivering TV as IPTV rather than cable, and they see the need to raise their own network capacity.

So, uh, that kinda proves that "NN killed investment in the network" is false. It also goes against PAI’S OWN STATED POINTS that we need to remove NN to increase speeds and investment.

So there are plenty of changes, and the trend of change for network speed is up.

Again, you do realize this is the opposite of Pai’s argument.

Put another way, it’s hard to point to anything specifically that says "it’s working".

Other than the arguments you made in the previous few paragraphs, which disprove your entire argument.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I didn’t realize how difficult it was to change the rules, thanks for the insight.

“This is why I think Pai knows that the rules he’s putting in place won’t survive the inevitable court challenge. Because he has to show that there have been significant and meaningful changes in the market since the 2015 order, which has already been approved by the courts.

I don’t see how he can do that.”

If he can’t win, what is the point of all this? If he tries to change the rules, and loses in court,doesn’t that further solidify the rules in place?

Sounds to me like were trying to interrupt the enemy while he’s making a mistake.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Couple of months back there was an article covering the likely game plan and how Pai’s actions fit into it, but the tl;dr version is he’s the ‘bad guy’ designed to stir up attention and allow telecom tools in congress to swoop in and ‘rescue’ the internet by passing a law ‘clarifying’ things(one which will likely be so riddled with loopholes that it’s worse than no law at all in reigning in telecom abuse of their customers).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Thanks for the follow up. I’ll read thru all this a bit more. A possible good idea for an article on this site would be a big picture timeline of the whole net neutrality issue. It’s creation, it’s obstacles, and it’s current state. I try to put it together from the individual stories, but I still don’t feel I have a good grasp on the whole series of events. I wish I had more time to read 🙂

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Unfortunately a timeline like that would either have very little details in order to keep the size down, or would be absolutely massive as it covered the various twists and turns over the many years. A quick read it would not be.

If you’ve got a few/lot of hours to burn you could always check out the various articles TD’s done on the subject, which should at least cover most of the big points, though again, not a quick read.

Bud42 says:

FCC and Net Neutrality

Remember the ads back in the 90’s-early 2000’s wit robot-like humans in a huge audience and a big brother-type character wearing glasses appeared before them on a huge screen ? Then we saw an INDIVIDUAL swinging a huge sledge hammer onto the screen and see it all "explode." ( Apple computer ads )
We NEED those type of sledge hammer-throwing individuals to be thrown at the FCC, since they’ve never reigned-in the cable companies and the likes of Comcast and other cable and ISP providers from gouging Joe Consumer with their very EVIL "GREED IS GOOD" arrogant attitudes !!!

Thad (user link) says:

Re: FCC and Net Neutrality

Remember the ads back in the 90’s-early 2000’s wit robot-like humans in a huge audience and a big brother-type character wearing glasses appeared before them on a huge screen ?

…no? What are you talking about?

Then we saw an INDIVIDUAL swinging a huge sledge hammer onto the screen and see it all "explode." ( Apple computer ads )

Oh, okay, the "1984" Mac ad.

Singular. There was only one of them.

And it didn’t air in the 90s or early 2000s. It aired in…wait, hang on…what year did the 1984 ad air again? Tip of my tongue…damn, I lost it.

they’ve never reigned-in the cable companies

It’s reined in. Kings have reigns, horses have reins.

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