The New York Times Company is asking a judge to order the Federal Communications Commission to turn over information related to possible Russian meddling in the agency's recent net neutrality proceeding.
"The request at issue in this litigation involves records that will shed light on the extent to which Russian nationals and agents of the Russian government have interfered with the agency notice-and-comment process about a topic of extensive public interest: the government’s decision to abandon 'net neutrality,'" the newspaper writes in court papers filed Thursday in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. "Release of these records will help broaden the public’s understanding of the scope of Russian interference in the American democratic system."
The new lawsuit stems from the FCC's decision to repeal the Obama-era net neutrality rules, which prohibited broadband providers from blocking or throttling traffic and from charging higher fees for fast-lane service. Last April, Chairman Ajit Pai proposed revoking those rules.
The FCC's proposal drew a record-breaking 22 million comments, but many of those were submitted under fake names, or by Russian bots. While the precise number of fake comments is unclear, around 450,000 came from Russian email addresses.
The Times is seeking IP addresses, timestamps and user-agent headers (which could provide information about commenters' browsers) for all public comments regarding net neutrality submitted between April 26, 2017 and June 7, 2017.
The newspaper says it's entitled to the information under the Freedom of Information Act.
The Times says it initially sought additional data, but narrowed its request in response to concerns raised by the FCC about privacy and security.