Senators Ask FCC Why It Did Nothing To Stop Their Names From Being Fraudulently Used During Net Neutrality Repeal

from the fake-plastic-trees dept

Last year you’ll recall that somebody abused the nonexistent privacy protections at the FCC website to flood the net neutrality repeal proceeding with millions of fake comments. While the vast majority of real people oppose the repeal, a bad actor was able to either fraudulently use the identities of real people (like myself), or hijack the identities of dead people to spam the proceeding with bogus support. The goal: undermine public trust in the public comment period in order to downplay the massive opposition to the FCC’s handout to AT&T and Comcast.

Up to this point, the FCC has done less than nothing to investigate the fraud or prevent it from happening again, largely because it aided the FCC’s agenda. In fact, the FCC went so far as to block a law enforcement investigation into who was behind the fraud.

Hoping to pull the scandal back onto a front burner, Senators Jeff Merkley and Pat Toomey this week sent a letter to the FCC stating that they’ve discovered that their names were also used to post fake comments during the repeal. The two demanded the FCC implement some kind of CAPTCHA system to help police automated bogus comments (a bot seems to have posted millions of bogus comments in alphabetical order), and asked what the agency was doing to prevent the problem from occurring again:

“Late last year, the identities of as many as two million Americans were stolen and used to file fake comments during the Federal Communications Commission?s (FCC?s) comment period for the net neutrality rule,? the Senators wrote in a letter to Pai. ?We were among those whose identities were misused to express viewpoints we do not hold. We are writing to express our concerns about these fake comments and the need to identify and address fraudulent behavior in the rulemaking process.”

The FCC has been hammered for months over this scandal and has responded with the policy and regulatory equivalent of a shrug. I was told by the agency that there was nothing that could be done after my own identity was fraudulently used to support the repeal. So far, there’s been absolutely no repercussions for the FCC or its staffers, though a GAO investigation is currently ongoing. It’s worth noting that this kind of behavior isn’t exclusive to the FCC, with other Trump regulatory actions also being hammered with bogus support via bot over the last year.

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Comments on “Senators Ask FCC Why It Did Nothing To Stop Their Names From Being Fraudulently Used During Net Neutrality Repeal”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: How silly.

In fairness the problems are rooted a lot deeper than that:

– The FCC-members are political in nature and seems to be more focused on wielding the sword for that purpose!

– The comments are a formality. It happens way after the political deals have been made. There is basically no way to change their mind at that point!

– Fixing the system for taking comments would require the use of authentification programs to comment or a controversial “cleaning” of the data afterwards. Authentification programs are expensive and would run very close to the gun registry and voter-id issues. Cleaning after the fact will always result in a few legitimate comments getting pulled, which can be used politically…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: How silly.

Fixing the system for taking comments would require the use of authentification programs to comment or a controversial "cleaning" of the data afterwards

Not so. There are many [mostly] effective means available for preventing bot-posted comments. In 2015+, it border on ridiculous that a government page for collecting comments has no such protection added. It’s almost as if they didn’t really care what was posted as they had no intention of reading them anyhow.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Only, I suspect, because the bot-submitted comments aligned with what they had already decided on, and they could therefore spin it as support for their planned action.

Had someone used a bot to post pro-network neutrality comments however I suspect they’d have been ‘gravely concerned’ and would have spent significant time and effort attempting to find ‘the individual(s) responsible for attempting to undermine public trust in the commenting procedure, and present a dishonest portrayal of the view held by those putting forth comments’.

Anonymous Coward says:

There’s an individual on a dark web site claiming to be responsible for the comments uploaded, paid by a company directly tied with Verizon.

The person claims this attack on NN is personal, after Wheeler shamed the company and used Title II reclassification.

Given the idiotic shill video of putting a puppet in control of the FCC, I’m very likely to believe this claim.

NeghVar (profile) says:


” In fact, the FCC went so far as to block a law enforcement investigation into who was behind the fraud.”

Because of the use of stolen ID for fraudulent use, that makes it a criminal investigation. To obstruct the investigation is obstruction of justice. A federal offense punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
So why aren’t those involved in prison or at least ever arrested and charged?

Anonymous Coward says:

so what?

What did senators do to protect consumers from a rampant and out of control FCC?

But as usually the good ole folks at TD keep getting suckered.

the FCC is NOT the problem here… but it looks like those senators are doing a fine job of making you think the FCC is the problem.

If those senators “really” wanted to fix they problem they have tools. Stop getting suckered, it is beyond time to wake up!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: so what?

To say “the FCC is NOT the problem here” is ridiculous. Set aside net neutrality itself for a moment. The FCC is not only not investigating systemic fraud, they’re stonewalling other agencies trying to conduct investigations. I’m not sure what you think the Senate should do about that.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: so what?

“To say “the FCC is NOT the problem here” is ridiculous.”

Then you have been successfully bamboozled. One of the biggest reasons why legislatures created agencies like this is so they can get you to absolve them of the responsibility and focus on the Agencies.

“Set aside net neutrality itself for a moment.”

You have clearly misunderstood then. I am not implying that NN is any part of the problem, I am saying NN is just another victim of this problem.

“The FCC is not only not investigating systemic fraud, they’re stonewalling other agencies trying to conduct investigations.”

Sounds like the FCC is doing what it was created to do! Regulatory agencies are NOT created to help you citizens. They are there to lul you into a false sense of security and like a magician in a magic show they keep your attention on the inconsequential while the real actions happens a couple of inches away.

“I’m not sure what you think the Senate should do about that.”

Like I said… you have already been bamboozled so of course you are too short sighted and ignorant to understand what they can do about it.

Keep it up slick… it’s certain to get better if you just keep doing the same thing while expecting different results! right?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 so what?

They insulted first… let me guess, you have a selectivity bias when it comes who can and who cannot be allowed to insult people.

If you can figure out how to overcome your double standards maybe you will having something “meaningful” to add to the conversation.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 so what?

I am guessing you don’t use a dictionary when you decide what words mean?

adjective: ridiculous

deserving or inviting derision or mockery; absurd.”

I guess you don’t view derision or mockery or accusations of it being absurd as “not insulting”.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:9 so what?

Then please explain where I erred in stating that calling a statement (not a person) ridiculous (deserving of or inviting derision or mockery, not actually deriding or mocking it, absurd) is NOT equivalent to disrespect or scornful abuse, and providing facts to back up my statement.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 so what?

I would like to add…

“You are adding nothing of value to this conversation or the site.”

The problem is that you are not capable of knowing what value is. Especially the value of a word and its meaning. You are so bent on “perceiving” insult that you are not capable to understanding what really is intended to be insulting. You must be one of those snowflakes that think everything you say is never an insult but if someone says something you “feel” is an insult can’t be anything other than an insult.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:6 so what?

Glad you are entertained. I never said I don’t insult. I just stated that I was not the first.

I am actually perfectly fine with this. The problem comes from when you snowflakes started getting all “need my safe space” up on here.

Insult away… I won’t complain, but if you bitch about me insulting others after being insulted then you should sorta go and fuck yourself. Bitch at the person that started it, not the person giving back!

Richard Bennett (profile) says:

Liberal hysteria

This article – and the letter from Merkley and Toomey – is nothing but theatrics. The names on the comments to the FCC are utterly unimportant because only the ideas in the comments matter. The FCC is not supposed to make decisions on the basis of popularity, it’s supposed to rely on technical and economic analysis.

Pests like Techdirt simply gin up outrage for the sake of traffic and only serve to delay progress.

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Liberal hysteria

Pests like Techdirt simply gin up outrage for the sake of traffic and only serve to delay progress.


Using a word like "pests" to describe those who are striving to shed light on fraudulent behavior, cronyism & possibly illegal actions is very telling, Richard.

It says a whole lot about your mentality and gives us all a pretty good indication of where your paycheck comes from.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Liberal hysteria

He is not entirely wrong.

TD is being made into a patsy, clearly and happily laying all the blame and accusation it can at the feet of the FCC while seemingly giving the Senators a pass.

We have seen this game before. Politicians created these agencies and give them power. Then they turn around run a bunch of lip at them, but actually do nothing. The game is old, the game is good, and it is still got TD and apparently you tripping over yourself.

Yes, it is good that TD points these things out, yes this is better than nothing otherwise. But that being said… how about we make sure all parties get some appropriate blame for this problem instead of letting the “senators” off scott free when they pay nothing other than lip service to the problem.

When those senators actually DO SOMETHING, then we can focus only on the FCC as the problem but until then… the FCC is only a symptom of the problem that is those senators. Attacking the FCC right now is nothing more than taking medicine to treat the symptom while remaining blissfully ignorant of the problem.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Liberal hysteria

No, he’s not entirely wrong but it has absolutely nothing to do with your further statements. As you yourself point out, what TD has pointed out here is good and worthwhile. The rest of your comment is a lot of conspiracy theory nonsense. If they were really that good at misdirection, we’d be worshipping them like they were the best thing since sliced bread. With the exception of some rabid fanbases on both sides, I don’t see any evidence that is the case with the majority of the American public.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Liberal hysteria

“So why bother to require a public comment period if their decision is only supposed to be based on technical and economic analysis?”

To trick people like you. State where they are legally required to actually “follow” or “respect” those comments? All they have to do is allow a commenting period… and they allowed it. Sure they abused it too, but the joke is on you!

The Wanderer (profile) says:

Re: Re: Liberal hysteria

To give members of the public who have technical and/or economic insights to provide the opportunity to do so, so that the decision-makers can draw on those insights in making their decision.

Under that model, once a given insight has been presented by/in one comment, a second comment presenting that same insight adds nothing.

I actually agree with Richard Bennett that for the FCC to permit the weight of numbers in the comments on either side of the issue to influence their decision would be inappropriate. Where I think the actual problem lies is in the issue of identity fraud – not in any effect on the decision by the FCC, but in the appropriation by whoever made those comments of the identities of others with which to do so. The FCC’s comment system was merely a place for this fraud to occur.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Liberal hysteria

You’re not entirely wrong but there is still value in WHO is making the comments, not just what they contain. Otherwise why not just have people submit comments anonymously? If you are going to say that who comments doesn’t matter, then you should have no problem with people commenting anonymously.

Of course we all know you don’t actually believe that because you whine and complain all the time about how I and others comment on TD anonymously. You’re being disengenuous again Richard, and your hypocrisy is showing.

You are correct that the FCC is supposed to make decisions based on facts and not popularity, but that’s not what happened. Pai’s mind was bought, sold and made up long before this came to a vote, much like your opinion on the matter. Not to mention that one indicator of whether something is good for consumers is whether it is popular or not. An unsafe car is not popular, and rules that benefit ISPs at the expense of consumer money, privacy, and freedom of choice is also NOT popular. Not to mention that the technical and economic analyses 100% prove that NN is good for consumers and competition.

Try again Richard.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Liberal hysteria

The names on the comments to the FCC are utterly unimportant because only the ideas in the comments matter.

So… I take it that this comment was, in fact, left by you?

And? I don’t see what the problem is here. I couldn’t give two shits if you pirate kids want to download your several gigabyte games. – Richard Bennett

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Liberal hysteria

Are you actually not Richard Bennett and instead are trying some kind of double reverse trolling of him? Because you basically just admitted to wanting to have sex and, potentially, make babies with Ajit Pai, something that some of Pai’s and Bennett’s detractors on here accuse them of regularly. It seems odd that you would then come out and admit as much.

If you are Richard, you still suck at insults. Where did calling the AC homophobic come from? Nothing in his comment even goes anywhere near that topic.

The Wanderer (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Liberal hysteria

Yeah, there’s at least one person here who posts in that style/form as Richard Bennett without being logged in, apparently purely to troll him.

I think I may actually have seen more “Richard Bennett” posts which appear to be from that troll than from the logged-in Richard himself, lately.

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