Society

Names Stolen To Make Comments On FCC Website

| by Simone Stover

The names and personal information of thousands of individuals have been used without their permission to post comments expressing opposition to net neutrality on the Federal Communication Commission's website

According to The Guardian, as of May 26, approximately 450,000 iterations of the same comment had flooded the FCC's website. The comment expresses discontent with current net neutrality rules, according to Business Insider: 

The unprecedented regulatory power the Obama Administration imposed on the internet is smothering innovation, damaging the American economy and obstructing job creation. I urge the Federal Communications Commission to end the bureaucratic regulatory overreach of the internet known as Title II and restore the bipartisan light-touch regulatory consensus that enabled the internet to flourish for more than 20 years. The plan currently under consideration at the FCC to repeal Obama's Title II power grab is a positive step forward and will help to promote a truly free and open internet for everyone.

The comment references Title II of the Telecommunications Act. Back in 2015, under former President Barack Obama's administration, the FCC agreed to regulate Internet Service Providers (ISPs) under the Title II classification, according to The Guardian. This ruling meant that ISPs could not favor certain content creators over others; for example, under the current rules, ISPs cannot speed up the delivery of content produced by creators who are able to pay more. 

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Ars Technica reports that it seems as though the comments have been submitted by spam bots and that the information attached to them was obtained through data breaches. The comment itself comes from a campaign group, the Center For Individual Freedom; however, the CFIF has said that it is not responsible for the posting of the comments. 

"It was pretty ridiculous," said Joel Mullaney, one of the individuals whose name was used without permission, referencing the content of the comment. "That’s pretty much the exact opposite of what I think."

In response to the comments, the net neutrality activist group Fight for the Future has set up a website called "Comcastroturf," which allows individuals to search if their name has been used in conjunction with the comment. The site seems to suggest that the company Comcast is responsible for the data breaches and postings of the comment. Comcast has reportedly sent a cease and desist letter in an attempt to gain control over the domain but has since stopped taking action.

In addition to creating the "Comcastroturf" website, Fight for the Future has coordinated the release of a letter addressed to Ajit Pai and David A. Bray -- the chairman and chief information officer of the FCC, respectively -- and signed by 14 individuals (including Mullaney) whose names and personal information were used without their consent to post the comment. The letter brings attention to the unauthorized use of individuals' names in relation to the comment and urges the FCC to take action.

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"All proper authorities must be notified immediately and the FCC must disclose any and all information the agency has pertaining to the organization or person behind these fake comments," the letter states in its conclusion.

The Guardian reportedly has asked the FCC what they intend to do about the spam that their website has been receiving, and was directed to comments that Pai made during his most recent press conference. 

"We will make our decision based on the facts that are in the record and on the relevant law that is presented – and obviously fake comments such as the ones submitted last week by the Flash, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman and Superman are not going to dramatically impact our deliberations on this issue," Pai said as part of his comments. 

Sources: The Guardian, Ars Technica, Comcastroturf, Fight for the Future, Business Insider / Photo credit: jeanbaptisteparis/Flickr

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