For months leading up to the FCC’s vote to repeal net neutrality, millions of public comments in favor of the anti-net neutrality plan cropped up.
As New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman called out last month:
My office analyzed the public comments submitted to the @FCC about #netneutrality—and found that 100,000s of Americans were likely impersonated to drown out the views of real people and businesses. This was akin to identity theft on a massive scale: https://t.co/xxFjSgoqVP
— Eric Schneiderman (@AGSchneiderman) November 21, 2017
One month later, that tally is even worse. On Wednesday, the New York attorney general’s office released more details of their investigation and found that 2 million comments had stolen the identities of real Americans.
Americans have reported their own identities being used, as well as the identities of deceased loved ones.
Actor Sean Astin reported that his mother, Patty Duke’s, name was used to create not one, but at least THREE comments on the FCC’s website in support of ending net neutrality one year after she died. Mackenzie Astin shared screenshots of the comments on Twitter:
Hey, @AjitPaiFCC, today my mom would have turned 71. But she didn't. Because she died in March of 2016. Can you please take the time to explain to me how she made three separate comments in support of ending #NetNeutrality more than a year after she died?
— Mackenzie Astin (@MackenzieAstin) December 15, 2017
Patty Duke died in 2016, yet all three comments were published in 2017.
Schneiderman had called for a delay in the vote pending more investigation:
“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,” said Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. “Yet the FCC is moving full steam ahead with a vote based on this corrupted process, while refusing to cooperate with an investigation. As we’ve told the FCC: 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.”
Of course the FCC didn’t listen. Despite Schneiderman’s call for a delay and thousands of complaints from consumers, the FCC went ahead and voted for an end to net neutrality. According to Brian Hart, an FCC spokesman, the agency lacks the resources to investigate every comment. Hart says that fake comments and email address were created by those in support of net neutrality.
Now Senator Jeff Merkley is coming on board to demand justice after finding the he was impersonated as well:
Turns out someone impersonated me during the @FCC #NetNeutrality comment period – further proof of forged comments in this process. We need to get to the bottom of this and demand justice for those who sought to be heard. pic.twitter.com/k8SOzHtS9J
— Senator Jeff Merkley (@SenJeffMerkley) December 18, 2017
The FCC continues to take no action to remove the fraudulent comments or to prevent them from being filed.