Senators Want FCC To Probe Fake Net Neutrality Comments

Two Senators whose names were used in fake net neutrality comments are urging the Federal Communications Commission to investigate fraudulent activity in its commenting system.

"We were among those whose identifies were misused to express viewpoints we do not hold," Senators Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) and Pat Toomey (R-Pennsylvania) say in a letter to the FCC. "We need to prevent the deliberate misuse of Americans' personal information and ensure that the FCC is working to protect against current and future vulnerabilities in its system."

Last year the FCC received a record-setting 24 million comments regarding its plan to repeal net neutrality -- but up to an estimated 2 million were submitted under fake names or by Russian bots.

The lawmakers are asking the FCC to answer a series of questions about the fake comments, including whether the agency is working with the Department of Justice and state attorneys general to investigate, and whether the agency is implementing steps to prevent a recurrence.



"Simple security measures should be employed to restore trust in the rulemaking process," they write. For instance, they say, the agency could use CAPTCHA technology to filter out bots.

Merkley and Toomey aren't the only ones questioning the FCC over the fake comments. In February, 22 House Democrats asked the agency to explain how it evaluated public comments, including one submitted by bots. Last year, the agency brushed aside requests to delay voting on net neutrality until investigators weeded out fake comments.

The agency also refused to cooperate with former New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's investigation into the comments. FCC general counsel Thomas Johnson told Schneiderman last December that his request for commenters' IP addresses could compromise people's privacy. Johnson also said the issues under investigation wouldn't affect the FCC's vote. "The Commission does not make policy decisions merely by tallying the comments on either side of a proposal to determine what position has greater support, not does it attribute greater weight to comments based on the submitter's identity," he wrote to Schneiderman.

Next story loading loading..