Impersonated Net Neutrality Commenters Want FCC Investigation

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A group of letter writers say their information was used fraudulently to post anti-net neutrality comments.

People who say their personal information was used to spam a Federal Communications Commission comments site are asking the commission to remove those comments and investigate how they got there.

The comments site in question has become a battleground for supporters and opponents of Trump administration efforts to roll back net neutrality rules that bar internet service providers from favoring some sites over others.

The site was overwhelmed earlier this month after comedian John Oliver urged net neutrality supporters to comment on the site using a tool built by his show "Last Week Tonight" to make the process easier. FCC said the site was targeted by a distributed denial-of-service attack, but security researchers have cast doubt on that claim.

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Now, the 14 letter signers say their information was used in a countercampaign to post comments supporting net neutrality revisions. The letter was posted by Fight for the Future, a digital rights group that supports net neutrality. It was addressed to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and FCC Chief Information Officer David Bray and cc’d to members of Congress, though specific members are not listed.

“To see my good name used to present an opinion diametrically opposed to my own view on net neutrality makes me feel sad and violated,” one of the letter writers, Joel Mullaney, told the advocacy group. 

The FCC commenting system does not validate names, so many of the comments appear to be from pseudonyms, such as "John Oliver" or "The Internet." 

The letter writers are asking FCC to notify all people whose information might have been used without their knowledge, to remove fraudulent comments from the public docket and to investigate who’s behind them.

“As chairman of the FCC, an independent federal agency, it is your responsibility to maintain public trust, especially while your agency is fielding comments on the future of the free and open internet, an issue that millions of Americans care deeply about,” the letter states.

FCC did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the letter.  

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