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US paper on net neutrality hit by spammers, 'dead' people

27 May 2017

A campaign group has complained to the US Federal Communications Commission about its alleged refusal to erase fake comments from a consultation paper on net neutrality.

Fight for the Future's complaint is signed by 14 people who say their details were used without permission to file anti-net neutrality views. The campaign group further says that some of the comments were posted using the names and details of dead people.

''We are disturbed by reports that indicate you have no plans [1] to remove these fraudulent comments from the public docket. Whoever 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 on to. Hundreds of thousands of other Americans may have been victimised too,'' says the letter to FCC chairman Ajit Pai and copied to members of the US Congress.

The FCC has voted two-to-one to reverse net neutrality laws enacted in 2015. The vote was the first stage in the process of repealing the legislation designed to force internet service providers to treat all data traffic as equal.

Americans now have until the middle of August to comment on the proposals.

Almost 2.8 million comments have been filed on the FCC's plans since the consultation opened at the end of April. Last week it was reported that hundreds of thousands of comments supporting the proposals had been posted by bots.

After the FCC vote on 18 May, chairman Ajit Pai told reporters there was "a tension between having an open process where it's easy to comment and preventing questionable comments from being filed", but admitted that the regulator "erred on the side of openness".

Fight for the Future claims that many of the suspected spam comments have been posted using genuine details that have been stolen.

In their letter to the FCC, the group has called for an investigation into the fake comments, and for the regulator to notify all those whose details have been used to post them.

"It cannot be the case that the FCC moves forward on such a major public debate without properly investigating this known attack," it said.

Fight for the Future says it has heard from "hundreds" of people who have found comments posted in their names, in favour of revoking net neutrality.
The group's campaign director, Evan Greer, told Motherboard it would add more names to the letter as it verified their claims.

"This letter was something we put together quickly with people who were furious that their personal information had been used and wanted to do something immediately," he said.

The FCC has not yet officially responded to the letter.

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