A Democratic Congressman from New Jersey has asked the Department of Justice and the FBI to look into whether fake comments submitted as part of the FCC’s net neutrality proceeding violated federal law.
In a letter sent to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe this week, Rep. Frank Pallone urged the pair to investigate reports that stolen identities were used to submit comments to the Commission. He also noted an Ars Technica article indicated nearly half a million identical comments were submitted by an unknown party. Pallone, who is a ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, called the reports were “troubling.”
“These parties may be attempting to influence federal policy by publicly misrepresenting the views of innocent victims,” he wrote. “Federal law prohibits knowingly making any materially false statements or representation in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative, or judicial branch … I urge you to take swift action to investigate who may be behind these comments and, if appropriate under applicable federal law and regulations, prosecute the people behind these fraudulent comments.”
Pallone’s letter follows one from the victims themselves to the FCC last month asking the Commission to remove all fraudulent comments and notify others who may have been impacted.
“We are disturbed by reports that indicate you have no plans to remove these fraudulent comments from the public docket. Whoever is behind this stole our names and addresses, publicly exposed our private information without our permission, and used our identities to file a political statement we did not sign onto. Hundreds of thousands of other Americans may have been victimized, too,” the victims wrote. “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 FCC’s push to roll back the Title II classification for telecom service providers that serves as the underpinning of net neutrality has been fraught with commenting issues.
Immediately following a segment from “Last Week Tonight” host John Oliver on net neutrality in which he urged Americans to share their opinions with the FCC, the Commission said it fell victim to a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack that temporarily rendered its comment filing system unusable. Once the system was back up and running, spam began to flood in.
As pointed out by The Verge in May, nearly 58,000 anti-net neutrality comments utilized identical phrasing calling for the rollback of “unprecedented regulatory power the Obama Administration imposed on the internet.” The number of those repeat filings hit more than 471,000 by Thursday morning.
Filed Under: Industry regulations