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On eve of internet censorship vote, powerful AG uncovers explosive corruption scandal

Raising grave new concerns about the process by which Donald Trump’s FCC is moving ahead to overturn net neutrality rules that protect consumer choice on the internet, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced Wednesday that millions of fake comments had been filed with the FCC in an effort to mimic grassroots support for internet […]

By Eric Boehlert - December 13, 2017
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Eric Schneiderman
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman

Raising grave new concerns about the process by which Donald Trump’s FCC is moving ahead to overturn net neutrality rules that protect consumer choice on the internet, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced Wednesday that millions of fake comments had been filed with the FCC in an effort to mimic grassroots support for internet censorship.

The FCC’s vote on net neutrality is scheduled for Thursday, but Schneiderman is calling on the commission to delay it’s final decision until it can be determined who’s responsible for the massive scheme.

“Millions of fake comments have corrupted the FCC public process – including two million that stole the identities of real people, a crime under New York law,” Schneiderman announced Wednesday. “Moving forward with this vote would make a mockery of our public comment process and reward those who perpetrated this fraud to advance their own hidden agenda. The FCC must postpone this vote and work with us to get to the bottom of what happened.”

Meanwhile, Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO) became the first Republican member of Congress to call for the FCC to delay its vote to repeal net neutrality.

Last month, FCC commission chairman Ajit Pai, who was installed by Trump earlier this year, announced that the Republican-controlled commission would vote in December to gut the neutrality rules that were put into place during the Obama administration. Such a decision would “give Internet providers broad powers to determine what websites and online services their customers can see and use,” the Washington Post reported.

The scheme, like so mo much of the Republican policy agenda this year, is wildly unpopular with voters.

In fact, a new poll from the University of Maryland shows that “large majorities of Americans — including 3 out of 4 Republicans — oppose the government’s plan to repeal its net neutrality rules for Internet providers,” according to a Post report.

And that’s where the rampant fraud comes in.

When the FCC undertakes a major public policy initiative, they post what is called a ‘Notice of Proposed Rulemaking,’ which urges interested parties — whether its corporations, lobbyists, or just citizens — to file comments and detail their support or opposition of the pending issue before the commission.

But soon after the public comment period opened up, it was discovered that a massive amount of the comments in favor of dismantling net neutrality were fake. Using names and addresses that had been previously stolen, commenters fraudulently posed as real Americans and flooded the debate in an effort to create the impression of grassroots support for gutting net neutrality.

Schneiderman’s office quickly determined that tens of thousands of New Yorkers may have had their identities misused as part of the scheme, and that hundreds of thousands may have been affected nationwide.

Wednesday, Schneiderman updated those figures, announcing that more than two million of the comments, from people from all over the country, were posted using fake identities.

To date, more than five thousand people have confirmed that specific pro-net neutrality comments posted at the FCC were forgeries. One man even confirmed to the New York AG’s office that a comment was made using his dead mother’s identity.

An investigation by the Wall Street Journal published Wednesday confirmed Schneiderman’s findings about the huge volume of fake comments to the FCC regarding net neutrality. “It is a federal felony to knowingly make false, fictitious or fraudulent statements to a U.S. agency,” the Journal noted.

Despite the criminal nature of the comments, Trump’s FCC isn’t interested in investigating the scheme. Over the summer, Schneiderman contacted the FCC and urged it to help it identify who was behind the massive misinformation campaign, but the FCC has refused to cooperate.

Nearly 30 Senate Democrats recently expressed their dismay and have urged the FCC to investigate.

“A free and open Internet is vital to ensuring a level playing field online, and we believe that your proposed action may be based on an incomplete understanding of the public record in this proceeding,” the senators wrote in a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. “In fact, there is good reason to believe that the record may be replete with fake or fraudulent comments, suggesting that your proposal is fundamentally flawed.

The public debate has been corrupted by fake comments, and Trump’s FCC doesn’t even care to find out who do it. Instead, they’re plowing ahead with a vote on a massively unpopular scheme that will affect nearly every American nationwide. Under these circumstances, the result of any such vote will be just as fraudulent as the comments.


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