New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman alleged on Nov. 22 that large numbers of fake comments are subverting the debate over net neutrality.
The FCC is in the process of discussing the repeal of net neutrality provisions established under the Obama administration, according to the New York Post.
"My office analyzed the fake comments and found that tens of thousands of New Yorkers may have had their identities misused in this way," Schneiderman said.
Around 400,000 comments in favor of the regulations reportedly originated from a single Russian address.
"In an era where foreign governments have indisputably tried to use the internet and social media to influence our elections, federal and state governments should be working together to ensure that malevolent actors cannot subvert our administrative agencies' decision-making processes," added Schneiderman.
Comments against the regulations were logged with names such as Jesus Christ and Barack Obama.
Amy Spitalnick, a representative for Schneiderman, alleged the fake comments had shifted the balance in favor of doing away with the regulations, which are designed to ensure that internet service providers do not favor or disadvantage any website.
"If you remove the seemingly fake comments and petitions without actual signatures, 98 percent of comments were pro-neutrality," she told the New York Post.
"The unprecedented regulatory power the Obama Administration imposed on the internet is smothering innovation, damaging the American economy and obstructing job creation," read one comment, which appeared repeatedly under different names.
Hackers also reportedly shut down the FCC comments site through a procedure known as a denial of service attack.
According to the FCC, 7.5 million of the 22 million comments received are fake pro-neutrality comments. The office stressed it was not aware of the comments' origin.
"This so-called investigation is nothing more than a transparent attempt by a partisan supporter of the Obama administration's heavy-handed internet regulations to gain publicity for himself," an FCC spokesman said of Schneiderman's allegations.
Small businesses have strongly supported retaining net neutrality regulations, as those businesses fear that restrictions on internet activity could adversely affect their ability to compete with larger companies. The American Sustainable Business Council and other small business groups sent an open letter to the FCC in August which described the potential elimination of net neutrality as "disastrous."
"The open internet has made it possible for us to rely on a free market where each of us has the chance to bring our best business ideas to the world without interference or seeking permission from any gatekeeper first," noted the letter, according to The New York Times.
Sources: New York Post, The New York Times / Featured Image: Pixabay / Embedded Images: Lonnie Tague/United States Department of Justice/Wikimedia Commons, Federal Communications Commission/Wikimedia Commons