New York AG Provides Tool To Help You Check If Your Name Was Used To Support Killing Net Neutrality

from the shenanigans dept

So we’ve noted several times now how the FCC’s open comment period for its Orwell-inspired “Restoring Internet Freedom” net neutrality proceeding was simply awash in all manner of fraud. From bots that filled the comment proceeding with bogus support from fake or even dead people, to fake DDoS attacks intended to downplay the wash of angry users that flooded to the agency’s website in protest. All of this stuff is more than likely to pop up in the inevitable lawsuits that are filed in the new year after the net neutrality repeal formally hits the federal register.

In addition, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman recently stated he has been conducting an investigation for the last six months into these bogus comments. In a letter recently sent to FCC boss Ajit Pai, Schneiderman notes that he reached out to the FCC nine times over a period of five months to get the agency’s help in getting a closer look at the APIs and server logs related to the fraud campaign. And that time and time again the FCC ignored its request:

“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.”

That mirrors my own experience in trying to get the FCC’s help after somebody hijacked my identity (and the identity of one of my employers) to falsely claim (twice, using two different bogus addresses) I support killing net neutrality protections. The general consensus is that while the FCC isn’t likely directly behind this fraudulent activity, it’s refusing to help because 1) exposing the culprit could expose the industry-linked groups behind it and 2) raising questions about the legitimacy of the one chance the public had to give feedback helps downplay the massive public opposition to the FCC’s plan.

Regardless, the NY AG is proceeding with its investigation without the FCC’s help. As part of that push, it has revealed a new tool on its website that lets you check to see if your name was improperly used to support killing net neutrality. Those findings are then submitted to the AG for use in its investigation and as evidence in any looming lawsuits.

Again, this is just one potential avenue of inquiry into this entire, rather grotesque affair. The FCC is also being sued by journalists for ignoring FOIA requests related to the comment fraud, for refusing to be transparent about its meetings with large ISPs eager to see the rules repealed, and for hiding details of the DDoS attack that wasn’t. These will all be joined by numerous lawsuits in the new year filed by consumer groups and smaller companies, who are likely chomping at the bit to prove the FCC violated agency procedure (and potentially the law) in its rush to give consumers the tech policy equivalent of a giant middle finger.

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Comments on “New York AG Provides Tool To Help You Check If Your Name Was Used To Support Killing Net Neutrality”

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PaulT (profile) says:

Re: NY AG Tool

I popped over there just to see how many names came up (I have a ridiculously common name and it’s always amusing to see where like-named people are and such).

From my results, there’s definitely people in other states returned, and obviously with me being nowhere near the USA there’s no geographical restriction on using it. I would imagine that the feature to report misuse might be restricted to NY (obviously the NY AG wouldn’t be able to intervene in other states), but the actual search facility appears unrestricted.

Search away!

Mike C. (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I searched for my wife. Nothing from her, but mixed in with the results were dozens of identical submissions on the same day, same name, different address, same comment from “Janet Copper”. Saw the same on every name search I did – there is always a large number of entries with same name, same date (or within 24 hours), same comment, different address.

If they were truly interested in a “clean” process, they should have included a “Submitted by IP address” as well. We all know they likely aren’t, but would have been nice to see.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

It’s easy enough for some one stuffing the box to either fake their IP, or actually have a different IP for many submissions by submitting indirectly through a botnet.

Which might lead you to want to filter out submissions where more than one comes from the same IP, but you might have multiple people using the same computer, or many people using the same proxy or Tor exit node.

Anonymous Coward says:

Tried two names in it

1. Mine. I have a rather uniquely-spelling last name and know everyone else in the US who shares it. Oddly enough, it appears that we all submitted the same identically-worded comment opposing NN.

2. Spouse’s. A rather common name, thus the search yielded quite a few comments. A great many of those — all opposing NN — have identical wording to those in (1).

Speculation: since our names appear in juxtaposition, they were probably harvested by a web scraper.

crade (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Obviously it doesn’t only search for fake comments. The whole purpose is to figure out the scope of the fraud. If they already knew which comments were fake there would be no need for it.

If you actually posted the comments you saw, then they are not fraudulent. If you didn’t, then they are (regardless of whether you agree with them or not really)

Thad (user link) says:

Re: Re:

Why does the site only search for fake comments.

It doesn’t.

Sort of leading isn’t.

Not as leading as starting off your post by lying about what the form does.

I found my name many time but they all supported my views

So you don’t care if someone is impersonating you as long as they agree with you? Real principled there, champ.

not to let the government decide what’s fair and neutral.

That’s not what net neutrality is.

I don’t want the government grimey hands on anyone’s internet.

Then go back to privately-run online services like Prodigy and GEnie, or maybe you can find a nice dial-up BBS. Because the Internet was created by the US government, you nitwit.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

“So, rather than have a law that stops the ISPs from deciding where on the Internet you can go”

The fun fact is – that’s the opposite of net neutrality. NN is the government telling ISPs that they have to let you go wherever you want, and that they have to treat all traffic the same. The problem is, some people have been fooled into thinking that neutrality is the content, not the pipes, he’s been convinced that law regarding road traffic is the government trying to tell you which towns you can visit, not how to safely manage the routes there)

He’s literally wishing his freedom to be sold off because the corporations who wish to do that have him riled up about a boogeyman government rule that not only doesn’t exist, what does exist actually prevents what he’s scared about (unless I’m mistaken, NN rules would apply equally to municipal broadband as they do to private ISPs, so it would prevent the government from doing what he’s scared of. Without it, they’d have the same ability to redirect traffic as the corporations).

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

No, it’s really not, but you still seem to reach the wrong conclusion (hint: it has nothing to do with the content of the internet).

Perhaps you should read up on what NN actually is, unless you think the government should stop getting involved in the consistency of your electricity and water supplies as well, and all the other infrastructure they provide standards for.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Did you have an email address ending in .ARPA?


Then sit down, shut up, and learn — if you can manage it — from those who were there. Here is lesson 1 of day 1:

The Internet exists in large part BECAUSE OF GOVERNMENT ACTION. Not entirely. Some of it was academic, e.g., CSnet. Some of it was ad-hoc, e.g., Usenet. But the heavy lifting in the early days was done because DARPA wanted it done. And the coalescence of these disparate networks (as well as others) into what you know as “the Internet” was done in a cooperative manner with another heavy dose of government involvement.

Your homework for tonight is to go look at all of the early RFCs and to focus, in particular, on the affiliations of their authors. Note how many of them were at government institutions. Note how many of the ones who were elsewhere were supported by federal government money. And finally, note that the nodenames ended in .ARPA for a really, really obvious reason. Hint: government.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Don’t forget that when he thinks of the internet, he’s actually thinking of the web, which was created by a foreign government institution (shock, horror!) and is upheld by an international standard body largely funded by grants and other government-related funds.

If he’s so scared of government involvement in the internet, you’d have thought he’d be long gone by now, yet here he is.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Monday, so Karl "somebody hijacked my identity" Bode whining again.

Reporting accurately on a site created by the New York Attorney General’s office = self important whining?

If so, what does that the pointless crap you spew over this site anonymously, yet done so poorly we can always tell it’s the same braindead fool trying to detract from the issues at hand?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Monday, so Karl "somebody hijacked my identity" Bode whining again.

Oh look… it’s poor little PaulT whining about people that refuse to drink his flavor of kool-aid.

You wouldn’t know shit if it landed on your face.

Yes, we are all one and the same. There is no chance that there is more than one anti NN and anti FCC person here. Unlike you, we are able to think for ourselves.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Monday, so Karl "somebody hijacked my identity" Bode whining again.

I’m sure he’s well aware that there are more than one anti-NN and anti-FCC person here. It’s just that there happens to be one or two very prolific posters who can be easily identified by the their idiosyncrasies in the way they write their posts.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Monday, so Karl "somebody hijacked my identity" Bode whining again.

That’s always one of your best tricks. Whine that people think the anonymous idiots might actually be the same immature child, then absolutely refuse to give any further argument or way to tell the idiots apart.

I don’t really care how many of you there are. One petulant fool or a kindergarten full of you, it doesn’t improve the quality or tone of your ranting nonsense. If you don’t like being mistaken for one of the other idiots, perhaps you can use the freely available, but still anonymous, methods of us telling you apart. Or, at least tell the other members of your cargo cult to come up with a tactic other than attacking the author of the article for writing about a subject you don’t want him to write about.

“Unlike you, we are able to think for ourselves.”

I doubt it. You might stumble across something relating to verifiable facts or a mature conversation if you did. Your skills at avoiding those things is what leads me to believe it’s just the one child posting. There’s surely no way the lot of you can all believe the same easily provable lies about NN without someone leading you.

John E Cressman (profile) says:

Are you kidding me?

Please don’t pretend to be ignorant of the ways of various hackers.

Hacking 101

1) Scrap names/emails from various sites
2) Run script to use emails/names with random comments

Any 10-year-old script kiddy can have this up in about 10 minutes.

Don’t pretend there’s some vast conspiracy THIS time because it’s against something your’re for. This happens ALL the time.

The ONLY remarkable thing is why ANYONE believes ANYTHING on the internet. Especially ANYTHING with a submission form.

Personally, I think the government should either stay away from the internet or declare it a utility and regulate it like they do all of the other utilities.

Unfortunately, both actions have goods and bads.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Are you kidding me?

Mostly true. However, and I hope you know this, patterns of comment submission, timestamps, originating IP addresses, putative clients names/versions, passive OS fingerprinting, and so on, can yield information about the patterns of comments.

Perhaps analysis of all that will yield nothing useful. Perhaps it will yield quite a bit of useful information. However, since the FCC is lying and is refusing to provide all of that information to investigators, there’s no way — yet — to know.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Are you kidding me?

“Don’t pretend there’s some vast conspiracy THIS time because it’s against something your’re for. This happens ALL the time.”

It’s OK for corporate hackers to interfere with public consultation because it happens all the time? Well, OK, but if you want to stop the government from investigating this, you have to accept whatever the corporations want to bend you over and make you accept.

“Unfortunately, both actions have goods and bads.”

Sure, especially if the FCC is as underfunded and biased toward corporate interests as they have been in the recent years that has led to the mess the US internet is in right now.

But, you can’t honestly be saying that simply handing it over to corporate monopolies is not worse than retaining the status quo, or introducing regulation on par with other nations that have actual competition and consumer choice?

Anonymous Coward says:

My name was used fraudulently

Found my name and it was a definite fraud. I had moved in 2016 and this 2017 comment had my old address on it. The comment was pretty hysterical too – the complete opposite of my opinion – we all know whose power grab this is and who is trying to pervert the Internet:
“To whom it may concern: My comments re: network neutrality regulations. I implore the commissioners to undo Obama’s power grab to take over the web. Individuals, rather than the FCC Enforcement Bureau, should be free to enjoy the services they desire. Obama’s power grab to take over the web is a perversion of the open Internet. It undid a market-based policy that worked fabulously successfully for many years with nearly universal support.”

Another Anon Coward says:

using the US Postal Service to detect fakery?

I was not impersonated, but I noticed that two of three comments with my name are duplicates, filed 8 days apart for the same name and address. I wonder if those are real people at real addresses. Do any lawyers out there know if it’s legal for private citizens to scrape records off the FCC site and mail a few letters to fellow citizens, using another state AG’s address as a return address for the outside envelope and also inside for reporting impersonation (or a legitimate comment) on a post card:

Dear Citizen,

Someone created a comment on the U.S. Government’s FCC web site attributed to you (enclosed) advocating “light-touch regulation”–a phrase so removed from normal political discourse that we find it difficult to believe you really exist. If you wrote the enclosed comment, kindly mark Box A and return the pre-paid postcard to your A.G. for statistical analysis. If you didn’t write the comment, kindly initial box B authorizing your A.G to investigate and prosecute those who impersonated you.

Warm Regards,
Mike Coward

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