In FCC chairman Ajit Pai’s race to rollback Obama-era net neutrality regulations, it was revealed Wednesday that more than half of the 21.7 million public comments supporting the rule change were likely faked. The amount of fraudulent comments is staggering, but also necessarily surprising. For six months prior, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman had been investigating “a massive scheme to corrupt the FCC’s notice and comment process.”
Now, after multiple requests for details from the FCC have gone unanswered, the attorney general has decided to crowdsource his evidence-gathering efforts, publishing a website where people can search for their names in the public comments and report misused identities to the authorities:
The website makes finding a name among the comments as easy as running a search on Google. However, be prepared to find results including people who sharing your name but live in other places, as well as previous comments you may have made in past FCC initiatives.
And the issue of fake comments isn’t just important to pro-net neutrality web users. In July, a group opposed to net neutrality rules said it had discovered 1.3 million faked comments from France, Russia, Germany, and suspect web domains.
“At this point, the deception appears to be so massive that the comment process has been rendered unmanageable and meaningless,” Peter Flaherty, president of the nonprofit conservative watchdog group National Legal and Policy Center, said in a statement.
Though Schneiderman disagrees with the group’s position on Net Neutrality (he’s admittedly for the rules), the attorney general is on their side regarding fake comments. “It’s about the right to control one’s own identity and prevent the corruption of a process designed to solicit the opinion of real people and institutions,” he wrote in an open letter to the FCC. “Misuse of identity online by the hundreds of thousands should concern everyone — for and against net neutrality, New Yorker or Texan, Democrat or Republican.”