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Senators Pressure FCC On Fake Net Neutrality Comments

Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Pat Toomey (R-PA) asked FCC chairman Ajit Pai to investigate fake comments made on the commission's website during its comment period for the net neutrality rule changes. Merkley and Toomey said both of their identities were stolen and used to make fake comments, which gave both of them a reason to work together on this issue, despite being in opposing parties.

In their letter to Pai, the senators said that as many as 2 million Americans had their identities stolen and used to make fake comments on the FCC's website supporting the net neutrality rule change. These fake comments may have given the FCC the impression that many Americans supported its plan to repeal net neutrality--which is set to go into effect on June 11--even though most people actually opposed it.

Merkley and Toomey are far from the first to ask the FCC to investigate fraudulent comments. The Fight For The Future digital rights organization said in May 2017 that over 450,000 anti-net neutrality comments were made by a botnet using stolen identities. Victims demanded that the FCC notify people whose identities were used to make the comments, remove the comments from its website, and further investigate the issue.

Former New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman released a tool in December 2017 to help people find out if their identities were used to make false comments on the FCC website. Schneiderman said in a letter to Pai that his office reached out to "multiple top FCC officials, including you, three successive acting FCC General Counsels, and the FCC’s Inspector General" about the investigation. None of the officials responded.

Good news finally came in January, when the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) said it would formally investigate fraudulent comments made during the net neutrality repeal comment period. The GAO was careful to note that it would only look into “fraud and misuses of American identities,” which meant it would exclude bot comments that didn't use stolen identities, but at least something was happening.

Yet here we are months later with yet more prodding for the FCC to investigate these comments. Merkley and Toomey sent over these questions:

How is the FCC working with the Department of Justice to identify those who submitted fake comments?Is the FCC working with state attorneys general to determine whether state crimes were broken when these identities were stolen?What measures is the FCC taking to ensure this does not happen in the future?How can the FCC track down who misused the identities of two million Americans?Can the FCC determine how many of the fake comments on record were submitted by bots, a software application that runs automated tasks (scripts) over the Internet?Has the FCC considered using a CAPTCHA, or other security technology, to prevent fraudulent machine input?Is the FCC aware of any foreign government submitting fake comments and for what purpose?

Neither the FCC nor Pai have publicly responded to the letter from Merkley and Toomey. Pai did find the time, however, to tweet about the anniversary of Pac-Man's debut. Fitting, given that the FCC seems to be as willing to accept false comments supporting its controversial plans as Pac-Man is to gobble up pellets. Let's hope the specter of increased scrutiny works half as well on the FCC as Pac-Man's ghosts do in their game.

  • frelledstl
    Pai and Republicans aren't going to do a thing. Their ears are too full of all the cash they are receiving while taking legal bribes from lobbyists.
    Reply
  • 10tacle
    20990759 said:
    Pai and Republicans aren't going to do a thing. There ears are too full of all the cash they are receiving while taking legal bribes from lobbyists.

    It is spelled "their." Yeah only Republicans do that. :ange:

    Anyway, back to the real world, I have been following the debate among the public on Net Neutrality for nearly two years. What I have noticed is a pattern largely drawn along political leaning lines. Those left of center want Net Neutrality and trust the government to do its job. Those right of center do not want it and believe that the free market will police itself.

    I'm somewhere in the middle as one who believes that we need government intervention in monopolistic unfair business practices (to the consumer specifically). Both Intel and Nvidia have been slapped on the hand in fines by the FTC. On the other hand, there is a twofold failure: First, the aforementioned fines by the FTC were relative pocket change compared to the money they make.

    Second, history is rife with the government failing to take action against private business bullying the consumer with monopolistic actions. Case in point there? Facebook. The government chooses to sit by the sideline while it grows and grows and grows and becomes more belligerent down to being caught trying to access user health care records recently. Congress looked the other way and Zuckerberg questioning before the Senate was nothing but a dog and pony show.
    Reply
  • dhayric
    20990759 said:
    Pai and Republicans aren't going to do a thing. There ears are too full of all the cash they are receiving while taking legal bribes from lobbyists.

    Cite your source otherwise this is pure conjecture. What exactly are Republicans supposed to do? Your response doesn't tell us anything. It' already been proven that Net Neutrality wasn't preventing anything it was allegedly supposed to prevent. There is no evidence anything was happening prior to 2015 to justify it's creation. Net Neutrality was actually hurting the internet by crushing competition. Even Tom's wrote an article about it.

    It was a massive power grab disguised as consumer protection. Stop being so gullible dude.

    https://www.tomsguide.com/us/why-us-internet-is-slow-and-expensive,news-26251.html
    Reply
  • 10tacle
    ^^That's pretty much my conclusion too. It was a Trojan Horse in control over all of the internet. And make no mistake both political parties LOVE control. They only have different reasons for doing the same thing. Example: left of center wants to control political content making negative comments about them removed and labeling it as "hate speech," (or in the most recent example affecting an election outcome), and right of center wants to control social content slamming religion as "hate speech." Anyone who is living in the real world outside of a political bubble can see this.

    What the US needs is infrastructure investment to bring better ISP speeds and competition to less populated areas of the nation. That was the entire argument for NN in the first place. Exactly how many US House Representatives made an HR Bill proposal to do just that in their district that got passed by the House and on to the Senate for approval? ZERO! So that proves right there it was only about control, not access improvement. This story/thread currently is borderline violating one of Tom's Hardware sacred GRAPES rules (the P) but sometimes a comment needs to be responded to. There is no way to avoid going into politics when it comes to Net Neutrality.
    Reply
  • Giroro
    @dhayric
    Stop spreading such ignorance and misinformation.

    Net Neutrality isn't being repealed, it's a philosophy. What is being repealed is an extremely basic and essential consumer protection that requires ISPs to provide the service that people are paying for, and prevents private companies of monopolistic control over our utilities to price gouge and gain power. Title II Classification doesn't censor the internet, it actually prevents companies from censoring the internet.

    Net neutrality existed before 2015. In fact, Net Neutrality has always existed for the entire existence of the internet. All the reclassification of broadband under Title II of the Communications act did was preserver powers that everybody thought that the FCC already had in the first place. The FCC had been enforcing Net Neutrality for over a decade before it was determined that the way broadband was classified at that time meant they didn't technically have that power. So they fixed it to, you know, prevent the collapse of our web-based economy.

    The internet couldn't even have been created without the neutrality provided by landlines, which are also classified under Title II of the Communications act.

    If you're worried about a big-government power-grab, that is what is happening right now with the removal of these protections. June 11 will be the first time ever that broadband providers will be operating without the shield of net neutrality protecting Americans - and it will be years until the ISPs have to worry about the threat of new protections being passed.

    But hey, good luck getting your "fair and unbiased news" when the company that owns CNBC starts blocking you from accessing "anyone who isn't CNBC".

    @10tacle
    It's interesting you say that "infrastructure improvement" is an argument for NN, when Comcast and Ajit Pai keep insisting that "infrastructure improvement" is one of the primary reasons that they need to repeal Net Neutrality. The reality is that net neutrality in no way prevents or discourages companies from improving their infrastructure - it's actually being discouraged by a lack of competition - which is a separate issue of local governments guaranteeing regional monopolies to the big players.
    Although I question why a company like Comcast would ever invest a single cent upgrading bandwidth after they are allowed to increase the speed of their own services by throttling everybody else.
    Reply
  • TJ Hooker
    20990957 said:
    Cite your source otherwise this is pure conjecture.
    It' already been proven that Net Neutrality wasn't preventing anything it was allegedly supposed to prevent.
    It was a massive power grab disguised as consumer protection. Stop being so gullible dude.
    Sources for either of those statements?

    There is no evidence anything was happening prior to 2015 to justify it's creation.
    https://www.freepress.net/our-response/expert-analysis/explainers/net-neutrality-violations-brief-history

    Net Neutrality was actually hurting the internet by crushing competition. Even Tom's wrote an article about it.
    https://www.tomsguide.com/us/why-us-internet-is-slow-and-expensive,news-26251.html

    Where in that article does it say that NN hurts competition? As far as I can tell (admittedly just skimmed it), all it says is that fixing lack of competition should be the priority, and that the NN laws do not fix that issue (which they were never supposed to AFAIK). Lack of competition is definitely an issue, but it's not the same issue as NN.

    Edit: Added a missing "not" in the last sentence.
    Reply
  • JamesSneed
    Why does everything politics related devolve into your side vs my side conversations? OOh its politics revert to 10 year old self, nana nana you are wrong.

    Anyone on TH shouldnt be against Net Neutrality. It's such a basic thing preventing all of us from getting screwed over.

    People are forgetting to think for themselves and just believe whatever biased media they watch tells them. Which by the way is paid for by ads by the very same companies that are trying to make money off of you.
    Reply
  • Net Neutrality is a religion. If your against it your Satan. Net neutrality "shall save the Internet" and "thus sayeth my youtube iman, repent and support Net Neutality, and thou shalt be saved!"
    Reply
  • 10tacle
    20991134 said:

    @10tacle
    It's interesting you say that "infrastructure improvement" is an argument for NN, when Comcast and Ajit Pai keep insisting that "infrastructure improvement" is one of the primary reasons that they need to repeal Net Neutrality.

    Okay fair enough. Except it doesn't address my question posed in my previous post:

    "Exactly how many US House Representatives made an HR Bill proposal to do just that in their district that got passed by the House and on to the Senate for approval?"

    I can count on one fingerless hand how many dating back to the first term of the previous president. By the way: I have no problem with the current business model of ISPs charging customers more for faster access. Who out there thinks that Comcast/Xfinity and AT&T and Verizon investing billions in fiber for 1GB connections means everyone gets equal access to it at the same price? You want a faster car? You have to pay for it. You want a faster connection? You have pay for it. The internet is not a right nor is it a public utility. If you want an example of state-run internet, talk to people who live in China.

    I don't see the FTC stopping ISP or telecom mergers across many different administrations. My mother's ISP/cable company got bought out recently and her bill went up. She had to drop some cable channels to keep her bill the same. I have not tested her internet speed since the changeover. So what gives there? Where is *that* government protection? How can we be sure the government would be competent enough to police NN? Those are my questions. Finally, I'll add that FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is not the only opponent of NN. Just a few other prominent opponents of it:

    MIT Media Lab founder Nicholas Negroponte
    TCP/IP creator Bob Kahn
    VoIP creator Jeff Pulver
    Netscape founder Marc Andreessen
    Sun Microsystems founder Scott McNealy
    PayPal founders Peter Thiel & Max Levchin
    National Urban League*
    Jesse Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH*

    *Both of those social justice organizations argue that NN would only hurt lower income minority communities as it would stifle free market competition for ISP growth in those areas.
    Reply
  • Xenophage2112
    I'm against Net Neutrality for the same reasons I'm against every form of government regulation, and against the FCC in general. It is a solution in search of a problem. If an ISP does something I don't like, I go to a different ISP. I do not think ISP's owe me Internet access on any terms but those they set. Competition works, and government doesn't. Private corporations attract my business by persuasion - they are not permitted to use force except by going to the government. Government IS force. Net Neutrality is simply one more example in an endless number of examples of some companies (Netflix) trying to use government force against other companies (Comcast). We need free markets, not controlled markets - and if there is some anti-competitive problem with the current environment caused by restrictive licensing and utilities contracts then THAT is where everyone's focus should be. You don't fix a wrong by implementing another wrong.
    Reply