Millions of comments submitted to the Federal Communications Commission as it sought public feedback on the agency's plan to roll back "net neutrality" rules were fake, New York prosecutors claim. The state's attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, said Wednesday his office's investigation found that 2 million of the comments stole the identities of real Americans.
More than 5,000 people have reported that comments on the proposed repeal of net neutrality were falsely made under their names, according to the probe.
Schneiderman urged the FCC to postpone its vote on the repeal, which is set for Thursday.
"Millions of fake comments have corrupted the FCC public process, including 2 million that stole the identities of real people, a crime under New York law," he said in a statement. "Yet the FCC is moving full steam ahead with a vote based on this corrupted process, while refusing to cooperate with an investigation."
More than 100,000 fake comments were filed in each of four states, Schneiderman's office found: California, Florida, New York and Texas.
The attorney general's office arrived at its count of phony comments by running searches against the public database used to solicit feedback on the rules. Specifically, investigators looked for comments with identical text string, formatting similarities, similar syntax and other factors. The names of people linked to the questionable comments were found in known data breaches.
The net neutrality regulations, which were passed during the Obama administration, require internet service providers such as Comcast (CMCSA) and Verizon (VZ) to treat all websites and content equally. Advocates say they prevent broadband giants from offering faster online speeds for preferred content, while slowing other transmissions.
By contrast, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has pushed to overturn the net neutrality rules, arguing that they stifle innovation and hurt consumers. Phone and cable companies say the regulations are unnecessary and that they already support an open internet.
Schneiderman said the FCC is proceeding with the vote over the objection of more than 30 lawmakers in Congress, multiple state attorneys general around the US and two of its own commissioners.
"One might expect a federal agency to harbor a great deal of concern when faced with strong evidence of a massive fraud uncovered by multiple sources," he said in a letter to FCC general counsel Thomas Johnson Jr.
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