New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman called a press conference on Monday to demand a postponement of a 14 December 2017 vote by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on a proposed rollback of net neutrality regulations, declaring that the public comment process in advance of it has been “deeply corrupted.”
But Schneiderman is late – very late – to the party. Reports of fake and bot-generated comments started more than six months ago, before the official public comment period even began on 18 May 2017, after FCC Chairman Ajit Pai proposed the rollback.
ZDNet reported on 10 May 2017 that more than 128,000 identical comments had already been submitted. Some whose names were on those comments told ZDNet they had not submitted them – including one “commenter” who said that they didn’t even know what net neutrality was.
Those reports continued regularly through the year, and the flawed comments process, as Naked Security reported in October this year, was almost embarrassingly obvious.
Data analytics company Gravwell claimed at the beginning of October that only about 18% (3,863,929) of the 21.8 million comments submitted on the FCC website and via its API were unique.
The rest were likely from “automated astroturfing bots,” Gravwell founder Corey Thuen said, adding that the fakes were easy to spot.
Schneiderman, who was joined at the press conference by FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, demanded that the vote be delayed. Rosenworcel, an Obama appointee, was nominated for another term in July by President Trump, and confirmed by the Senate.
Schneiderman said his office carried out a review of the comments on the impending vote. They found that at least one million of these may have been made by impersonators, including up to 50,000 claiming to be from New York. He also accused the FCC of failing to help investigate who might be behind the fakes. Rosenworcel added that nearly 50,000 of the comments to the FCC were from Russian email addresses.
The FCC has now agreed to assist, but Schneiderman said that offer came on the morning of the press conference, after nine previous requests for FCC logs to show the origin of the comments.
It is not just fake comments at issue, either. There are also complaints from advocacy groups, including the National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC), saying that the docket – the collected files for and against the proposed rollback – doesn’t include the 50,000 consumer complaints filed about Internet Service Providers (ISP) since the Obama net neutrality rules took effect in 2015.
According to Ars Technica, 28 Democratic senators are also complaining about that omission. In a letter to Pai, they wrote:
50,000 consumer complaints seem to have been excluded from the public record in this proceeding… we believe that your proposed action may be based on an incomplete understanding of the public record in this proceeding.
At the press conference, Schneiderman contended:
You cannot conduct a legitimate vote on a rulemaking proceeding if you have a record that is in shambles, as this one is.
Advocates of the rollback agree that the comment process has been corrupted, but they say it has been happening on both sides. Brian Hart, an FCC spokesman, told the Washington Post that 7.5 million comments in favor of maintaining net neutrality appeared to come from 45,000 email addresses, “all generated by a single fake e-mail generator website.”
He said another 400,000 comments in favor of net neutrality appeared to come from a Russian mailing address.
And Tina Pelkey, also speaking for the FCC, declared in an emailed statement on Monday to reporters that neither Schneiderman nor Rosenworcel had identified, “a single comment relied upon in the draft order as being questionable.”
The key phrase there is, of course, “relied upon” – a tacit acknowledgement of the fake comments, but also an assertion that nobody on the FCC, including Pai, is giving them any credence.
There is no indication yet that the vote will be delayed. But opponents say they think the number of bogus comments will help them in a court battle to overturn the vote, if Congress doesn’t block it until an investigation is complete. Evan Greer, campaign director for the advocacy group Fight for the Future, told the Post:
It’s all about Congress for right now. But this (fake comments) will absolutely show up in court if we get there.
21 comments on “Net Neutrality comments “deeply corrupted” – NY Attorney General”
The comments are just a formality. Pai doesn’t care.
This. Big players have too much vested interest in the rollback – I’m sure the fix was in long ago.
The comments are just a formality. Pai doesn’t care.
Comments from Russian sources are one thing, but assessing the validity of a comment based simply on whether it is unique is absolutely pointless. Many advocacy organizations for various causes send out emails, or post on their websites, with samples of suggested comments for their members or supporters. I’d wager that the vast majority of people simply copy and paste those sample comments without modification, thus injecting a huge number of non-unique comments into the process. Just because someone – on either side of the issue – doesn’t see fit to write their own message, or even edit those samples, doesn’t make their comment any less valid or less worthy of consideration.
I’m not sure, but I would assume uniqueness in this case is based on different email accounts, not necessarily the content of the comment.
The comments are just that…….comments. They can consider them, or ignore them entirely. It’s up to the committee and whatever guidelines, if any, they decide to rule by. NY, et al, don’t have a “comment” to stand on.
The question then just becomes what’s the point of a public commenting phase, if even on a topic like this, with a response like this, they can just ignore all of them.
Your question is essentially the same as asking why websites have reviews, if bad reviews don’t ban the parties being reviewed from doing whatever they do, be it sales, cooking, manufacturing or some sort of service.
It’s simply a solicitation of opinions to be considered… NOT a ballot box.
We are supposed to be operating under a “representative” form of government. If constituent comments aren’t even “worthy of consideration”, that should say something fairly loud and clear. Thing is, I pay for the government AND for service from a company … then both turn against me (and others) using the $$$ they get from me (and others)
When you start to think on it, the only reason companies have the $$$ they do to lobby against their customers is that they’ve been charging too much too long. We just went through it with the “financial crisis” and it’s become obvious the only thing the “little people” are good for is to suffer as a result of WRONG policy and do what they are told (is “best” for them) the rest of the time.
Sure, most people might not be criminals but we have police and a whole system of “regulations” because some are and they can do a lot of damage. Used to be “the public good”.
Even “with” regulations and “transparency”, I was FORCED to take a tv package and box last year to get a decent price for internet service only. In other words, even WITH “regulations”, what the customer WANTED wasn’t important. Well, the customer understands better why I was forced to take that box (now). I received a (costly) “subsidy” to produce skewed data favoring Comcast.
Another train wreck coming … and most people are on the Comcast (or whatever) forums, begging for a lower (affordable) price. They just published their prices for 2018. Every single “service” and fee is increasing, from 0.50/month (late charge) to $5.00/month on packages. I guess that is in anticipation of all the investment and competition …
I started looking to find another ISP and one thing I notice is that many REQUIRE access to the customer’s bank account (condition of price or EVEN “term of service”). There are too many horror stories (or potential mistakes) that I don’t feel comfortable giving most companies that sort of access (autopay) … but even under “regulation” … it’s a “term of service”.
The whole contract could fit in the same size area as the “come on” (advertised great prices, blazing fast service and “unlimited” data). AKA … you give us this many $$ every month, we give you “this”. But the advertisement (and public commentary by corporate lobbies) is misleading. Just part of the great shell game that comprises much of what passes for business and government as usual anymore..
Well, any private corporation, website or service, I decide to use or not to use. If they do something I don’t like, I don’t need to review them, I can just stop using them. With a government organisation on the other hand I don’t have that luxury. But that organisation is supposed to act in my interest (or the interest of the majority at the least). So if they are basically asking what that interest is, it’s not that far fetched to think they should take into account what responses they got.
Are there even consumers out there that truly want Net Neutrality gone?
No, but they want to put on a little show for us, pretending to work for people, so they can get re-elected to get more kick backs for the next treasonous act.
Yes. Net Neutrality is set up as some kind of “God’s gift to the Internet”. But, remember what it really is: price-fixing. It is the forced removal of market economics from the Internet backbones.
I think Pai is going too far in his removal; he is reacting to the old very bad rules with mediocre rules, rather than crafting good new ones. But, the current rules are abysmally bad, and really do need fixing.
Excellent comment, Jim.
Hogwash. Internet backbone bandwidth is a very healthy marketplace already. Net Neutrality ensures that the pricing isn’t based on the content – everyone pays the same rate, regardless of what they’re transferring.
To see why it’s a bad idea to destroy that guarantee, read up on the robber barons of the railroad era, who made their fortunes putting others out of business. They did so by charging different rates to different customers – ones they didn’t like couldn’t afford to ship their goods!
You seem to misunderstand how things have worked. We’ve had the Obama-era rules for only a couple of years. The massive growth of the Internet occurred under NOT the net neutrality (NN) rules, but without them.
NN removes market dynamics. It’s just that simple. And, given enough time, it would have destroyed the Internet as we know it.
Please explain. HOW does Net Neutrality price-fix anything exactly? How does it even influence the market of internet backbones? As far as I know, UPS can’t (or at least doesn’t) charge more if the package is from Amazon instead of Apple. They charge based on the size of the package, not its content or its manufacturer/producer. So, you are saying UPS and Fedex and whoever else is delivering packages don’t have prices according to the market, but rather fixed prices forced on to them because they can’t charge based on content? I hope you can explain to me how prices are (negatively) affected by ISPs not being able to throttle based on content. Because what you said makes zero sense to me.
Your description is correct, but applies to Net Neutrality (NN), not to the new rules.
For example, Netflix at one time commanded over 1/3 of all prime-time US internet traffic. Yet, they pay by the server, not based upon what they used, thanks to NN.
So, the other 2/3 of traffic had to put up with reduced service, because ISPs were not allowed to charge accordingly. So, Netflix’s usage could grow without bound, but it’s costs went up only incrementally, due to government interference.
The price-fixing you mention applies to all consumers, and is correct as you stated in that context. But, what you forgot is that the Netflixes of the world are the consumers, not you and I.
Ok, now that at least makes a bit of sense. Even though it sounds like all they need is charge for traffic instead of having a flatrate contract. Why would they need to charge based on content? Also, while this may initially hit Netflix and the likes, nothing is stopping ISPs now from also charging regular customers extra for watching Netflix. Or from only showing you whatever streaming service paid them the most. I.e. if Amazon paid your ISP a premium so you can no longer watch Netflix at high speed. Regular customers don’t gain anything from not having Net Neutrality. Only ISPs do.
Yes, oh yes.
FEDERAL Communications Commission, pay attention to that first word. Still think this show is or will be in any way balanced by what the public has to say? Yea, this is just my opinion but it’s based on observation and reality. There is is, and their is what should be, but not both mostly. To wish for an unthrottled internet NOT controlled by big business is a fine wish but on a planet which has governments who have given themselves supreme control in their eyes at least and have now been bought with big business money because the people allow it to happen…I don’t see a ‘free’ internet as a reality. Sorry, wish it wasn’t so but…