NY AG investigates 'massive scheme to corrupt' net neutrality comments

By Allen Cone
Broken computer equipment carries a protest sign outside the FCC building in Washington, D.C. on May 16. Photo by Erin Schaff/UPI
Broken computer equipment carries a protest sign outside the FCC building in Washington, D.C. on May 16. Photo by Erin Schaff/UPI | License Photo

Nov. 22 (UPI) -- New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said his office is investigating "a massive scheme to corrupt" the Federal Communications Commission's public comments on net neutrality.

Schneiderman detailed the probe in a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai Wednesday, one day after the commission's chairman announced the commissioners will vote Dec. 14 whether to roll back Obama-era net neutrality regulations that require Internet providers to treat all web traffic equally.


Pai said he wants the government to "stop micromanaging the Internet" and return to the "light-touch, market-based framework that unleashed the digital revolution and benefited consumers here and around the world."

Before he released his plan, the FCC had a public comments process.

"The process the FCC has employed to consider potentially sweeping alterations to current net neutrality rules has been corrupted by the fraudulent use of Americans' identities  --  and the FCC has been unwilling to assist my office in our efforts to investigate this unlawful activity," Schneiderman said in the letter.

The attorney general said his office has been investigating for six months "who perpetrated a massive scheme to corrupt the FCC's notice and comment process through the misuse of enormous numbers of real New Yorkers' and other Americans' identities."


In a post on Twitter, Schneiderman said hundreds of thousands of "real Americans" were impersonated.

Although he said the conduct violates state law, he wrote "the FCC has been unwilling to provide information that is critical to the investigation."

In June, he said his office contacted the FCC to request records relating to its public comment system, including logs and other records at least nine times over the past five months.

"Yet we have received no substantive response to our investigative requests. None," he wrote in his letter.

Schneiderman concluded by writing, "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."

On its website, the FCC set up an Electronic Comment Filing System that "encourages public participation." Comments were due by July 17, and reply comments due by Aug. 16. It received more than 22 million comments, Variety reported.

Pai said in the interest of transparency, he released his plan more than three weeks before the Commission's vote.

"When the prior FCC adopted President Obama's heavy-handed Internet regulations, it refused to let the American people see that plan until weeks after the FCC's vote,' he wrote.


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