Spammers Send FCC Fake Comments Opposing Net Neutrality

Geronimo Vena
Mag 12, 2017

Although comedian John Oliver on his show Last Week Tonight had asked his viewers to inundate the website with comments supporting Net Neutrality, the FCC says a DDoS (distributed denial-of-service) cyberattack, not angry HBO fans, are responsible for their website's issues.

An apparent bot-generated campaign has posted more than 83,400 comments on the FCC's website supporting the agency's plan to gut its own net neutrality rules. Almost 4 million people participated in the public comment at the time, and the overwhelming majority of "unique" comments - those not directed from a template form - appeared to be in favor of net neutrality.

"That doesn't even sound like verbiage I would use", says Nancy Colombo of CT, whose name and address appeared alongside the comment.

Oliver created a web link where viewers can offer their comments, and also suggested in a tweet that they "urge the FCC to keep strong net neutrality rules".

The FCC's website has become a battleground for the future of the internet since Donald Trump's newly installed FCC chair, Ajit Pai, announced plans to repeal the previous administration's net neutrality protections. "We're not commenting on the comments at this time", he said by email.

Earlier, FCC said it was targeted by a DDoS attack which made its site unavailable for a while.

The Federal Communications Commission's public commenting system experienced delays Sunday night.

"The unprecedented regulatory power the Obama Administration imposed on the internet is smothering innovation, damaging the American economy and obstructing job creation", read thousands of identical comments posted this week, seemingly by different concerned individuals.

Some commenters went out of their way to call out John Oliver specifically, but not many.

However, numerous new comments have the appearance of being fake. Also a problem, the swarm of anti-net neutrality bot comments that emerged a few days ago.

The vicious attacks in some of those submissions - combined with questions about their authenticity - have government transparency experts anxious that the public's input might be drowned out as the FCC begins its process.

But over at Reddit a number of users this week began to notice a group of 128,000 (and counting) duplicate comments - filed in flawless alphabetic order - all opposing net neutrality.

But the really interesting part: ZDNet managed to get a hold of the supposed owners of these names, many of which say they never filed comments - and have no idea what net neutrality even is: quote:We reached out to two-dozen people by phone, and we left voicemails when nobody picked up.

On Wednesday, reports claimed that more than 58,000 anti-net neutrality comments were fake, and contained the same language, although the origin of the duplicate comments remain unknown. With Pai in charge - and with his declaration that destroying rules net neutrality rules is "a fight that we intend to wage and it is a fight that we are going to win" - don't hold your breath.

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