‘Identity theft’: Net neutrality group demands FCC action over ‘fraudulent’ comments
Over 450,000 of the comments on the FCC’s plans to reverse the 2015 decision to regulate the internet as a common carrier under Title II of US law are fake, using names or addresses stolen from people without their knowledge, according to Fight for the Future. In at least two cases, comments were filed on behalf of people who are deceased, the group said.
“There is significant evidence that a person or organization has been using stolen names and addresses to fraudulently file comments opposing net neutrality,” said Evan Greer, Fight for the Future campaign director. “For the FCC’s process to have any legitimacy, they simply cannot move forward until an investigation has been conducted. We need to know who is doing this.”
Fourteen people who say they never wrote the comments filed under their names have sent a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, demanding the removal of the fraudulent submissions and an investigation of who is behind the identity theft.
“Whoever is behind this stole our names and addresses, exposed our private information in a public docket without our permission, and used our identities to file a political statement we did not sign onto,” the letter reads, warning that “hundreds of thousands of other Americans may have been victimized too.”
The FCC voted on May 19 to begin the process of rolling back the 2015 decision. Pai, appointed to the commission by President Donald Trump, has criticized the “hysterical prophecies of doom,” and argued that the rule was about imposing government control rather than solving a real problem.
The US did not live in “some digital dystopia” that required a “partisan imposition of a massive plan,”Pai said at an event in Washington, DC in April. “It’s almost as if the special interests pushing Title II weren’t trying to solve a real problem but instead looking for an excuse to achieve their longstanding goal of forcing the internet under the federal government’s control.”
Fight for the Future has accused internet service providers lobbying against “net neutrality” rules of spamming the FCC with fraudulent comments. The group has singled out Comcast, setting up a website called Comcastroturf.com to solicit feedback from people who may have been victims of comment identity theft.
The Philadelphia, Pennsylvania-based Comcast is a major internet provider and is the parent company of NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo, as well as Universal Pictures. One of the issues proponents of the 2015 regulations said they wanted to prevent was service providers creating “fast lanes” to prioritize their own content over that of competitors.
Earlier this month, TV personality John Oliver called on his viewers to deluge the FCC with comments supporting net neutrality. More than 700,000 comments came in after Oliver’s show, despite the commission’s comment system crashing under what it said was an unrelated distributed denial-of-service (DDOS) attack.