Surprise! Buzzfeed Links Bogus Net Neutrality Comments Directly To Broadband Industry

from the fake-plastic-trees dept

We’ve long discussed how the Pai FCC’s net neutrality repeal was plagued with millions of fraudulent comments, many of which were submitted by a bot pulling names from a hacked database of some kind. Millions of ordinary folks (like myself) had their identities used to support Pai’s unpopular plan, as did several Senators. Numerous journalists like Jason Prechtel have submitted FOIA requests for more data (server logs, IP addresses, API data, anything) that might indicate who was behind the fraudulent comments, who may have bankrolled them, and what the Pai FCC knew about it.

Those efforts have slowly been paying off. Back in January, Gizmodo linked some of the fake comments to Trump associates and some DC lobbying shops like CQ Roll Call. This week, Buzzfeed went even further, drawing a direct line between the fake comments and the broadband industry:

“A BuzzFeed News investigation ? based on an analysis of millions of comments, along with court records, business filings, and interviews with dozens of people ? offers a window into how a crucial democratic process was skewed by one of the most prolific uses of political impersonation in US history. In a key part of the puzzle, two little-known firms, Media Bridge and LCX Digital, working on behalf of industry group Broadband for America, misappropriated names and personal information as part of a bid to submit more than 1.5 million statements favorable to their cause.”

Broadband For America, who we’ve discussed previously, pretends to be a coalition of “consumer groups” and other interests “dedicated to protecting a free and open internet for all Americans.” But it’s little more than a cut out for Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, and other industry giants. Via a slow and painstaking FOIA process, Buzzfeed ultimately linked many of the stolen identities to major data breaches like the hack of modern business solutions by matching the fraudulent names via the hack database at HaveIBeenPwned.

Just in case the lede gets buried here: the broadband industry hired shady goons to use stolen data to create fake public support for anti-consumer tech policy. And nobody (especially the FCC) has done a damn thing about it.

Granted the net neutrality repeal is just one of many examples of lobbyists polluting regulatory comment periods (usually the only time consumers are allowed to give feedback on policy decisions) with fake people, and both Media Bridge and LCX Digital appear to have other clients beyond just the broadband sector:

“The anti?net neutrality comments harvested on behalf of Broadband for America, the industry group that represented telecommunications giants including AT&T, Cox, and Comcast, were uploaded to the FCC website by Media Bridge founder Shane Cory, a former executive director of both the Libertarian Party and the conservative sting group Project Veritas. Cory has claimed credit for ?20 or 30? major public advocacy campaigns in recent years, including, he says, record-setting submissions to the IRS, Environmental Protection Agency, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, and ?probably a handful of others.”

Classy! Given that both the DOJ and the NY Attorney General are (supposedly still) conducting ongoing inquiries into the fake net neutrality comments, this may not be the last time you’ll see these lobbying shops’ names in lights. Meanwhile it’s rather ironic that the same week a court ruling comes down supporting (mostly) the FCC’s repeal, a big chunk of the “public support” for the repeal — and the FCC’s primary justification for it (that the rules stifled broadband investment) — were clearly proven to be fraudulent. So far, one gets the sneaking suspicion the US legal system may just be broken.

Filed Under: , , , , ,
Companies: at&t, broadband for america, comcast, lcx digital, media bridge, verizon

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Surprise! Buzzfeed Links Bogus Net Neutrality Comments Directly To Broadband Industry”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
32 Comments
This comment has been deemed funny by the community.
David says:

Gee, so many negatives.

Just in case the lede gets buried here: the broadband industry hired shady goons to use stolen data to create fake public support for anti-consumer tech policy. And nobody (especially the FCC) has done a damn thing about it.

You sound upset. Do you want free credit monitoring? No need to provide your data and authorization, we already have it.

Anonymous Coward says:

‘So far, one gets the sneaking suspicion the US legal system may just be broken’

fuck me! not took you long to realise/state that! what is even worse is that the USA influences, through any means at it’s disposal, so many other countries and governments it’s a wonder that we ordinary people world wide aren’t being led around in chains, slaves to whichever giant corporation that wants to use us at the time, while continuing to wipe out/ignore any and all rights we’re supposed to have (having fought for them for hundreds of years!)

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Bt Garner (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I think the legal system is broken, but probably not in the same way that most do. The problem, from my perspective, is that there is no penalty for those who refuse to do their job and punish those who abuse the public trust. I am not sure that there is any quick remedy to that situation either, other than voting out those elected officials who practice the Sgt Schultz defense of "I SEE NOTHING!"

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Toom1275 (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Depends on who you ask.

If you ask Broadbamd For America, whose methodology dumped real comments made by those who wanted to protect their emails from being scraped to make fraudulent comments while including all the fake comments, then 70% of the comments supported Pai’s Restoring Internet Fuckery order.

If you ask Stanford University, whose methodology eliminated all bot- and form- based comments, and only looked at the 800k custom-written comments, 99.97% opposed the removal of NN.

Wyrm (profile) says:

Re: Legal System?

As long as "companies are people" and "money is speech", per SCOTUS decisions, this is not going to get better.
Those are not quite the exact terms of their decisions, but they are a pretty good summary of how lobbying has reached the status of "legal bribery" in the US.
These need to be either reversed or overruled with new laws. Obviously, this is going to be an uphill battle as the ones who can change the law are the ones benefiting from the status quo.

ECA (profile) says:

For all the Glory

A nation that Prides itself on the ideals of????

Ooops I think we forgot those.
Companies that sit around with FAKE/FALSE names that do the Reverse of what is said/spelled out in the names.
Corps who Screw the people.. so all they have to do is Collect the bills, and not improve this country.
Cutting The Gov. employee roles to the point our Gov. cant do much of anything..
the only persons getting money BACK from Cutting the personnel, TENDS to be the rich..with Tax cuts so great, they arnt TAXED.
the Fundamentals of Economy and how it works is thrown OUT the fricking window.
the idea of having SMART people help control the workings of the gov. is NILL, as most only learned 1 thing in all of their lives… Love political families Paying off the Schools to make kids look good.
Love the news Statements that this is the longest war…WHAT WAR? Why the hell are we still at war? Except to piss off the middle east. Or to reinforce the Control of the leaders in those countries.. 3000 killed int he USA, 100,000 Taliban killed world wide, 100,000+ innocent bystanders killed in Afghanistan(alone) And that was over 5 years ago. do you think those 100,000 innocent fix those 3000 killed or does it just Piss more people off?

https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/a3ywd5/white-house-acknowledges-the-us-is-at-war-in-seven-countries

WHY in hell are we paying for this?

ECA (profile) says:

For all the Glory

A nation that Prides itself on the ideals of????

Ooops I think we forgot those.
Companies that sit around with FAKE/FALSE names that do the Reverse of what is said/spelled out in the names.
Corps who Screw the people.. so all they have to do is Collect the bills, and not improve this country.
Cutting The Gov. employee roles to the point our Gov. cant do much of anything..
the only persons getting money BACK from Cutting the personnel, TENDS to be the rich..with Tax cuts so great, they arnt TAXED.
the Fundamentals of Economy and how it works is thrown OUT the fricking window.
the idea of having SMART people help control the workings of the gov. is NILL, as most only learned 1 thing in all of their lives… Love political families Paying off the Schools to make kids look good.
Love the news Statements that this is the longest war…WHAT WAR? Why the hell are we still at war? Except to piss off the middle east. Or to reinforce the Control of the leaders in those countries.. 3000 killed int he USA, 100,000 Taliban killed world wide, 100,000+ innocent bystanders killed in Afghanistan(alone) And that was over 5 years ago. do you think those 100,000 innocent fix those 3000 killed or does it just Piss more people off?

https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/a3ywd5/white-house-acknowledges-the-us-is-at-war-in-seven-countries

WHY in hell are we paying for this?

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Careful What You Wish For (or Machinate "Quia Munera")

I used to be WAY more worried about this. Then I saw the responses at the level of the individual states, who, surprisingly enough, seem not to have been adequately pre-bribed. Looks like the states are going to make life a living hell of litigation (and possibly huge expenses related to court costs and/or new bribes).

Best of all, when (I say "WHEN" not "IF" since that is my expectation) we get our next sane gov’t, we’ll put regulation back under the FCC, reinstate net neutrality, and override any bribe-induced non-neutral state laws.

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

Entertainment (profile) says:

Watch Kaale Dhande show in hindi | ZEE5

Watch Original comedy series in hindi only on ZEE5. This bold, new age laugh riot revolves around Vicky, a young photographer, whose life turns
upside down due to various unforeseen situations. Desperate to put things in order, he gets entangled into further mess.

Visit here:- https://www.zee5.com/zee5originals/details/kaale-dhande/0-6-2122

Leave a Reply to Berenerd Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...
Loading...