The FCC is being deluged with comments on net neutrality, and there are questions about whether comments are genuine or not. Automated “bot” spam, breached data and comments from beyond the grave have cast doubt on the authenticity of hundreds of thousands of comments.
In April, the Federal Communications Commission opened up a comments portal on the topic of net neutrality proposals. The portal was provided so people could express opinions on whether or not existing net neutrality rules should be repealed. The FCC has received nearly three million replies to date. At least 400,000 of those, however, appear to have been generated by automated “bot” systems. Spammers are also using stolen personal data, names and addresses that came from hacked databases.
The campaign group Fight for the Future has filed a formal complaint against the FCC. The group is calling for the FCC to investigate what is clearly a pattern of fake comments. The complaint is signed by 14 individuals who claim their identities were used without their permission to post opinions on the portal. Fight for the Future reports that it has heard from hundreds of people who had their identities used fraudulently.
Fight for the Future also claims that the personal details of deceased people are showing up on the comments list.
The FCC admits that the comments portal was designed with openness in mind. When design decisions were being made, they had to choose between an open process and one that contained robust spam filters. SEC Chairman says that they “erred on the side of openness”.
In 2015, the FCC passed rules that required Internet service providers to treat all Internet traffic equally. The current FCC has proposed changes that would roll back net neutrality. If passed, the new proposals would allow large Internet companies to sell better Internet performance to the highest bidder.
The questionable and fraudulent comments serve to obscure true public opinion on net neutrality. Prevailing sentiment is that most people want to maintain net neutrality, claiming it makes for a more democratic internet, while large ISP providers and telecom companies want to revoke existing net neutrality laws for more profit potential.