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Communications United States

A Bot Is Flooding the FCC's Website With Fake Anti-net Neutrality Comments (zdnet.com) 102

An anonymous reader writes: A bot is thought to be behind the posting of thousands of messages to the FCC's website, in an apparent attempt to influence the results of a public solicitation for feedback on net neutrality. A sizable portion of those comments are fake, and are repeating the same manufactured response again and again, ZDNet reports. So much so that more than 58,000 identical comments have been posted since the feedback doors were opened, now representing over one-in-ten comments on the FCC's feedback docket. The comment reads as following: "The unprecedented regulatory power the Obama Administration imposed on the internet is smothering innovation, damaging the American economy and obstructing job creation. I urge the Federal Communications Commission to end the bureaucratic regulatory overreach of the internet known as Title II and restore the bipartisan light-touch regulatory consensus that enabled the internet to flourish for more than 20 years."

ZDNet claims that all other comments follow the same pattern: the bot appears to cycle through names in an alphabetical order, leaving the person's name, and postal address and zip code. And some -- if not all -- of these comments are fake, the publication adds, claiming that it reached out to the people and many of them confirmed that they had not left any comments on the website.
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A Bot Is Flooding the FCC's Website With Fake Anti-net Neutrality Comments

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  • FCC comment (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 10, 2017 @12:48PM (#54393491)
    "The unprecedented regulatory power the Obama Administration imposed on the internet is smothering innovation, damaging the American economy and obstructing job creation. I urge the Federal Communications Commission to end the bureaucratic regulatory overreach of the internet known as Title II and restore the bipartisan light-touch regulatory consensus that enabled the internet to flourish for more than 20 years."

    That was my comment, and I can assure you I am entirely real person.

    -Anonymous Coward
    • Posting under names in alphabetical sequence? Rookie mistake
    • Just because a large number of people submitted the same comment doesn't mean it was a bot.

      Just because those people all submitted their comment in the alphabetical order of their personal names, should not be taken as a bot, just a coincidence.

      Even if some of those people are deceased, this is not evidence of anything improper or wrong. Dead people are still people and have opinions about public policy.

      So stop complaining about net neutrality and STFU. The government is working in your bestest i
  • Great (Score:5, Funny)

    by dejitaru ( 4258167 ) on Wednesday May 10, 2017 @12:48PM (#54393497)
    Watch Ajit Pai use that as enough excuse to "give the people what they want" and destroy net neutrality, regardless if it only accounts for 10% of the posts.

    Who am I kidding, he doesn't care to explain himself...
    • tear - too right
    • Re:Great (Score:5, Insightful)

      by lgw ( 121541 ) on Wednesday May 10, 2017 @01:28PM (#54393853) Journal

      Not remotely credible. It presumes that a government agency would actually read comments from citizens. Not a feature of large governments. They are required to accept comments, of course. Of course.

      • Do large governments have "features". All they do is suck the money into a black hole where you never see a penny of the money you forcefully "invested" in it.
        • Re: Great (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Right? It's really damned tough to hack a new road out of the forest, just to go to work every day. Having to hire your own security forces, fire department, and emergency responders is so expensive today.

          I could go on, but I suspect the effort would be wasted.

    • It's not surprising the comment resonates with him—buzzwords like "bipartisan light-touch" are basically copied right out of his mouth. Maybe he's behind the bot?
      • by sconeu ( 64226 )

        Doubt it. It's probably crafted to resonate with him, though.

        Back in the days of the SSSCA/CBDTPA, I wrote to Bush 43 to ask him to lobby against it, and veto it, should it cross his desk. I used terms that would appeal to him, "overreach of big goverment", "liberal Hollywood elite", etc...

        You craft your message for the audience.

    • Hey now, maybe those 10% of people were in sparsely populated states, and therefore their opinions are worth more due to the amount of unoccupied land surrounding them :-P

    • by oic0 ( 1864384 )
      Maybe he should be prosecuted for treason? Obviously going against the will of the people suggests he must have some other motivation.
  • False flag? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by StikyPad ( 445176 ) on Wednesday May 10, 2017 @12:49PM (#54393499) Homepage

    As much as I wish ISPs and their shills would be this transparent, this seems like a false flag to me. ISPs exert enough influence that they don't need to fabricate a grassroots effort, let alone one that's so clearly astroturf. OTOH, I can believe some script kiddy thinking this would somehow appear damaging to ISPs.

    • These script kiddies are either idiots or this is indeed a false flag. Did nobody ever think to put the sentences into a database and retrieve them with a random number generator, and do the same with the contact info?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      As much as I wish ISPs and their shills would be this transparent, this seems like a false flag to me. ISPs exert enough influence that they don't need to fabricate a grassroots effort, let alone one that's so clearly astroturf. OTOH, I can believe some script kiddy thinking this would somehow appear damaging to ISPs.

      They exert influence by doing exactly what you say they don't do. They fabricate grassroots coalitions fighting for the 'people', when in reality they are fighting for their own side.

      A lot of these organizations popped up during the #UnlockTheBox saga. An accidentally leaked document in a court case against Comcast showed that they spent $120M lobbying on the efforts.

    • Normally sure, but ISPs might have realized that lobbying is pointlessly expensive and unnecessary given recent political events. The dumber the approach, the more likely it is to succeed. Anyone paying attention will realize only the most hated companies in america will benefit from this, while everyone else will suffer. But clearly, most people are paying no attention. "Half the comments on this boring internet thing were happy about it, so you can ignore it" is probably all the cover they'll need.
    • by sl3xd ( 111641 )

      I can believe some script kiddy thinking this would somehow appear damaging to ISPs.

      My bet is it's just a hacktivist trying to make his/her views seem more mainstream and popular than they really are.

      Let's face it; history is full of examples where adherents to a fringe belief lie to themselves (and others) and promote it as being mainstream.

    • "some script kiddy thinking this would somehow appear damaging to ISPs."

      Why not some script kiddy thinking he can actually stop net neutrality? Eleven-dimensional chess has gone out of fashion with the script kiddies.

    • by bongey ( 974911 )

      Comments started being posted on 4/28/2017, right away a comment about astroturfing the fcc showed up on a liberal sub-reddit. Without a doubt a dumb liberal false flag, the comments had to be so repetitive,stupid and that it was anti-Obama thus no-one could disagree that it was right wing trump nut-jobs (wink, wink) astroturfing https://www.reddit.com/r/esist... [reddit.com]

  • by Rick Schumann ( 4662797 ) on Wednesday May 10, 2017 @12:52PM (#54393521) Journal
    I suppose it's possible that someone is trying to invalidate any legitimate responses from the public on this subject by doing this.
    I also suppose it's possible that some well-meaning idiot is doing it thinking they're helping the cause of Net Neutrality.
    Either way they need to knock it the hell off. Stop attempting to subvert the will of the people.
    • by bluefoxlucid ( 723572 ) on Wednesday May 10, 2017 @01:07PM (#54393649) Homepage Journal

      It's obviously an idiot. You can tell by the premise.

      Welfare programs are expensive. An undeveloped economy can't afford welfare programs; a highly-developed economy can implement more-effective welfare for lower costs than scaled-beyond-sustainable older welfare programs.

      Feudalism, baronies, and serfdom allowed countries to flourish for hundreds of years. Poor houses--prisons amounting to forced labor camps for the poor, reducing the cost of feeding them by using them as cheap labor--worked for decades after the industrial revolution. Modern welfare systems are threatened by newer systems like an expanded social security.

      The Internet has grown in scope. The things that worked in the past won't continue to work when the Internet is a different thing, just like governments don't continue to function when economies are different things.

    • by geekmux ( 1040042 ) on Wednesday May 10, 2017 @01:09PM (#54393683)

      I suppose it's possible that someone is trying to invalidate any legitimate responses from the public on this subject by doing this. I also suppose it's possible that some well-meaning idiot is doing it thinking they're helping the cause of Net Neutrality. Either way they need to knock it the hell off. Stop attempting to subvert the will of the people.

      In case you hadn't noticed, the will of the people is dead. The average citizen doesn't have a fucking clue what Net Neutrality is, nor do they give a shit enough to care.

      It's the entire reason why it will ultimately be defeated by those who maintain Control.

      • Oh, well then, I guess I'll just drop my pants, roll over onto my back, and invite them to violate my anus.
        ..or, instead, maybe I'll keep fighting, and encourage others to keep fighting, rather than being an abject coward like some people, who do just roll over and play dead? Know anyone like that, Geekmux??? If you do you really should tell them to show some backbone and fight for what's right. The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. Let's not allow evil to triump
        • Oh, well then, I guess I'll just drop my pants, roll over onto my back, and invite them to violate my anus. ..or, instead, maybe I'll keep fighting, and encourage others to keep fighting, rather than being an abject coward like some people, who do just roll over and play dead? Know anyone like that, Geekmux??? If you do you really should tell them to show some backbone and fight for what's right. The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. Let's not allow evil to triumph, shall we? Sometimes you have to fight for something for the sake of everyone, even if they don't understand what it is you're fighting for or why you're doing it.

          I would agree 110% with you. Bot or not, the statement that was being repeated on the site was not false. Perhaps the frustrating part was the bot-writer realizing the only way the FCC site was going to get enough feedback to be forced to address was to automate it. Sadly, if we were to remove all of the automated bot-driven content, there is likely a pathetic amount of feedback being posted from actual citizens who care enough.

          • Sadly, if we were to remove all of the automated bot-driven content, there is likely a pathetic amount of feedback being posted from actual citizens who care enough.

            My perusal of the comments, as well as the numbers from the article, refute this. The bot comments seem to constitute at most half (the article says 10%) of the more than 500,000 comments received. I'll grant that John Oliver's show is probably the proximate cause of nearly all of the real comments received, but that's okay, it's still real people taking the time to speak up.

      • In case you hadn't noticed, the will of the people is dead. The average citizen doesn't have a fucking clue what Net Neutrality is, nor do they give a shit enough to care.

        It's the entire reason why it will ultimately be defeated by those who maintain Control.

        Problem is, "will of the people" also includes the people who believe the divine will of Trump is beyond contestation. The don't need to understand they might lose their healthcare or see their Netflix bill double, because glorious leader is doing what is best for them.

        A big flaw in democracy is that you really can't fix stupid.

    • Are we sure it is not just a legitimate campaign? Most of these have prewritten messages you just click a button to send to your local senator, or in this case to submit a comment to the FCC. Submitting the letter/email/comment can be so easy it is easy to forget you did anything (can could be queuing messages for days if the server is slow and got loads of response), Furthermore, I am not sure how they were ever able to get into contact with every single person on the face of the earth named John Smith, th

  • end the bureaucratic regulatory overreach of the internet

    It is arguably overreach -- to take over such a massive thing unenvisioned by Congress. However, if that is the botwrangler's concern (it isn't) this is not helpful to your argument.

  • Amateurish. Nothing to see here. Move along.

  • The wild west aspect didn't make the net flourish, it was the fact it was for nerds. Once the plebs got into the mix everything got screwed up, one aspect of which is they are dumb and desperate enough to be taken advantage of, leading to a need for regulations like net neutrality to ensure nerds (the people who the internet was built by/for) don't end up in some bureaucratic mess with ISPs demanding an extra cost for every service used (or worse, hosted.)
  • of how to win friends and influence people.

    Not.

  • The attempt seems pitifully inept. To me, it seems designed to grab attention, which makes me suspicious that something else is going on. Distraction from some other part of the process, or for something completely unrelated?

    Of course, it could just be a script kiddie or some other idiot. Hanlon's razor may apply here: "any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice"

  • by tlambert ( 566799 ) on Wednesday May 10, 2017 @01:33PM (#54393905)

    Well they said it was a *Distributed* DOS attack...

    What's more distributed than all the devices of a certain broadband provider, and who would have the list of names and addresses associated with those routers?

  • There's no way some random hacker felt that passionately *against* the concept of net neutrality...right? I mean, the only people who support it are luddite ultra-conservatives. Someone must have been paid handsomely for this. (I'm looking at you, Verizon.)

  • Democracy in action, Fuck Yeah!! About time the corporations with a vested interest in the outcome can properly voice their concerns to squeeze out the humans.
  • Although his server farm runs on endless power from lakes of boiling sulfur, we could probably take out his Comcast fiber.

  • Why are they not using CAPTCHA or similar bot spotting measures ?, the days of just accepting a naked form post are long gone, even your lowly Wordpress installation has the option for comments thanks to bots, you would think the GOV would know this.

  • Whenever I read these articles it gets me thinking about when water wells are poisoned. Even after they are cleaned up there is always suspicion about how safe is it to drink the water. Even a rumor casts doubts, it then becomes nobody uses it unless other options have been exhausted (i.e. you will die in a matter of hours unless you drink this water now).

    Besides issues of Net Neutrality, what about telecommunications and broadcasters? If they don't follow FCC regs, will there be consequences? What about

  • by Anonymous Coward

    by little bitches. George Soros and MediaMeddles are the new script kiddies.

  • We just had another post claiming that the DDOS and use of bots against the FCC was fake.
  • ... does not a "DDOS" entail.

  • But many pro Net Neutrality commenters are also the same. This is because websites direct people on what to say or have an automated system that does it for them. They just have to put in their name and email and the website provides the rest. It's completely plausible that some anti-net-neutrality organizations are using the same tactic and technology.

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