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United States Government The Internet

FCC Refuses Records For Investigation Into Fake Net Neutrality Comments (variety.com) 164

"FCC general counsel Tom Johnson has told the New York State attorney general that the FCC is not providing information for his investigation into fake net-neutrality comments, saying those comments did not affect the review, and challenging the state's ability to investigate the feds." Variety has more: The FCC's general counsel, in a letter to New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, also dismissed his concerns that the volume of fake comments or those made with stolen identities have "corrupted" the rule-making process... He added that Schneiderman's request for logs of IP addresses would be "unduly burdensome" to the commission, and would "raise significant personal privacy concerns."

Amy Spitalnick, Schneiderman's press secretary, said in a statement that the FCC "made clear that it will continue to obstruct a law enforcement investigation. It's easy for the FCC to claim that there's no problem with the process, when they're hiding the very information that would allow us to determine if there was a problem. To be clear, impersonation is a violation of New York law," she said... "The only privacy jeopardized by the FCC's continued obstruction of this investigation is that of the perpetrators who impersonated real Americans."

One of the FCC's Democratic commissioners claimed that this response "shows the FCC's sheer contempt for public input and unreasonable failure to support integrity in its process... Moreover, the FCC refuses to look into how nearly half a million comments came from Russian sources."
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FCC Refuses Records For Investigation Into Fake Net Neutrality Comments

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  • Fraud detected. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 10, 2017 @01:10PM (#55711353)

    They're covering up their fraud by saying "It wasn't important" - but that's not going to fly.

    • At least a more creative excuse than "Chinese hoax" or "fake news".
    • Well really they're just telling the truth. They decided to kill NN and fuck what the public thought. It won't matter if 100% of the anti-NN comments are fraudulent, because their minds are made up already. It's like Pai's "it's funny because it's true" I'm-a-shill joke.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    It doesn't matter if any comments were faked or not. The FCC is not using any of the comments in their decision. The only comments that matter to them are those from Verizon et al.

    • by sjames ( 1099 ) on Sunday December 10, 2017 @01:39PM (#55711505) Homepage Journal

      It doesn't matter here. What matters is that the NY AG is investigating a criminal impersonation and the FCC is obstructing justice.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        It doesn't matter here. What matters is that the NY AG is investigating a criminal impersonation and the FCC is obstructing justice.

        I agree. Sure the FCC doesn't have to care about the comments. That is the result of losing an election.

        Still, if there is an investigation into fraud then they should cooperate. Even if the low life political appointment at the FCC honestly don't give a damn about the comments, if people's identities have been stolen, then you have to assume that the thieves are going to continue to use those identities for bad purposes.

        Basically Trump's government is now aiding and abetting crime by obstructing justice

      • by Xyrus ( 755017 )

        Par for the course with the current #predophile administration and it's general contempt for law. The authoritarians have already won. It's just going to take a few more months before everyone else figures this out.

        Oh, and the revolution won't be televised or on the internet. Comcast, Verizon, etc. will make damn sure of that.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The only comments that matter to them are those from Verizon et al.

      Those were instructions not comments.

    • by gtall ( 79522 ) on Sunday December 10, 2017 @04:16PM (#55712209)

      More accurately, the only comments that matter to Pai are the ones from his future employer.

  • by Revek ( 133289 ) on Sunday December 10, 2017 @01:17PM (#55711391) Homepage

    So they are making their own. Freedom for the few and higher cost for the masses.

  • by ohnocitizen ( 1951674 ) on Sunday December 10, 2017 @01:21PM (#55711409)
    Either we break up the companies doing this, fine them, and punish the individuals (why isn't regulatory capture a federal felony?) - they will just keep attacking the foundations of the internet every chance they get.
    • by Baron_Yam ( 643147 ) on Sunday December 10, 2017 @01:47PM (#55711553)

      >Either we break up the companies doing this

      You need a new anti-monopoly law that doesn't depend on investigating complaints. I like the idea of raising their taxation based on their market share.

      And then you have to nationalize common infrastructure, because it's really a bad idea to have every private company laying their own fiber or cable just like it'd be a bad idea if all roads were toll roads and different companies were not allowed to connect to each other.

      Something tells me both those ideas run very much contrary to deeply-held American economic ideals and will never happen.

      • by RazorSharp ( 1418697 ) on Sunday December 10, 2017 @04:11PM (#55712187)

        I like the idea of raising their taxation based on their market share.

        Me too. This is the type of tax reform I could get behind. It would discourage large corporate mergers because, if the merger were to jump them up to a way higher tax bracket, it wouldn't make sense to merge.

        • by dwpro ( 520418 )
          Seems like this would encourage vertical integration, which I don't see as that much better. If the policy somehow addressed that issue and prevented the walled garden eventuality, I could get behind it.
          • I guess that's true, but I'm not sure vertical integration is a bad thing if there's a diverse marketplace. Furthermore, in such a marketplace the market itself may discourage vertical integration as most firms have to be a pretty big player to make vertical integration cost effective.

            It's a valid concern, though. I guess that's the challenge of economics. The only way to test a hypothesis is to do it and then you discover what the unintended consequences are. Politically, this type of experimentation is di

      • I like the idea of raising their taxation based on their market share.

        Wouldn’t that just favor their current approach of carving out regional monopolies that don’t compete with one another? None has more than X%, yet all have complete dominion over their little fiefdom.

        Don’t get me wrong, I like the idea of creative yet simple approaches to taxation, but I’m not convinced this one would work in practice.

        • I've posted this idea before, this was an overly simplified version.

          You'd likely end up with a fair amount of lawyer-ese to cover such situations, as well as problems like new products or businesses that are (naturally) a monopoly for a period of time.

    • by Maritz ( 1829006 )
      You aren't going to see any pro-consumer action or legislation for a long time, if ever. The people running things now only want you to know your place, peasant.
  • He's not lying (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Impy the Impiuos Imp ( 442658 ) on Sunday December 10, 2017 @01:30PM (#55711453) Journal

    The FCC guy is right, though. Millions of fake comments had no bearing on the outcome at all, which was preordained.

    • Re: He's not lying (Score:5, Insightful)

      by TheReaperD ( 937405 ) on Sunday December 10, 2017 @01:59PM (#55711601)

      Even if it had no effect on the outcome, evidence shows massive, organized identity theft, which is a crime regardless of how much impact it had on the process.

  • by e**(i pi)-1 ( 462311 ) on Sunday December 10, 2017 @01:35PM (#55711485) Homepage Journal
    It is a scandal that such a group can make such important decisions and that the congress is not taking action. It is very likely that the vote on December 14 will just follow the recommendation of its chairman and that the comments of the public are completely ignored. Instead, there is a lot of PR: there was a recent comment by Ken Engelhart in the New York times with the title "Why Concerns About Net Neutrality Are Overblown" Well Engelhat had been a Telecom guy for 25 years. Well what ever helps old friends ... It looks not good. If one believes this article [thehill.com] then the only remaining hope would be the courts.
    • It is a scandal that such a group can make such important decisions and that the congress is not taking action.

      Except that congress stated explicitly that the internet not be regulated, and ditching NN brings the FCC in line with what congress wanted.

      • by LiENUS ( 207736 )

        > Except that congress stated explicitly that the internet not be regulated, and ditching NN brings the FCC in line with what congress wanted.

        When did they? and if so why don't they repeal the telecom act empowering the FCC to enact title II common carrier status? and why is the DMCA still in place if they want the internet to not be regulated? and why is the FCC claiming congress wants the internet regulated by the FTC?

    • It is a scandal that such a group can make such important decisions and that the congress is not taking action.

      No, the scandal is that the FCC under Obama put an executive policy into place that was directly at odds with the specific wishes of congress. Undoing that Obama admin fiat is putting things back into line with the law. I suppose you were also complaining when NN was put into place, for the same reasons? No? Gotcha.

      • by LiENUS ( 207736 )

        No, the scandal is that the FCC under Obama put an executive policy into place that was directly at odds with the specific wishes of congress.

        What? Why did they pass the telecommunications act of 1996 that explicitly empowers the FCC to enact network neutrality then?

        Undoing that Obama admin fiat is putting things back into line with the law. I suppose you were also complaining when NN was put into place, for the same reasons? No? Gotcha.

        But the law explicitly empowers the fcc to enact network neutrality, undoing the ruling doesn't put things back in line with the law, in fact the courts are saying that title ii regulation is the only way forward while the FCC is claiming its the FTCs job. This is an attempt by the FCC to get out of following the law as congress specifically enacted it.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        "No, the scandal is that the FCC under Obama put an executive policy into place that was directly at odds with the specific wishes of congress"

        The wishes of the republican controlled congress at the time was "Veto anything that black man puts in front of our desk."

        It's pretty much the same with Trump who's primary aim is "undo anything that black man managed to get done."

  • Lol (Score:4, Insightful)

    by burtosis ( 1124179 ) on Sunday December 10, 2017 @01:47PM (#55711549)
    There was never even a need to do more than have a period for public comments. A lot of the spam is from adversarial interests against the general American population, such as ISPs, Russia, etc. I've seen all the recent interviews with Ajit, the guy looks like a sociopath just dribbling brain diarrhea hoping to muddy the waters just enough to flee with the illicit billions about to be reaped from America. The man has stone cold glee in his eyes, there was never a sideways fart given about non legal tender arguments. The real damage, though, is the anti-competitive, anti-trust no consumer protection, content and provider monopolies, and freedom to censor anything nonsense that is likely to follow. It won't end until they are held accountable, so at this rate never.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Actually there is a need to do more than that.

      You can see how this process is explicitly defined here: https://www.federalregister.gov/uploads/2011/01/the_rulemaking_process.pdf

    • Re:Lol (Score:5, Informative)

      by SlaveToTheGrind ( 546262 ) on Sunday December 10, 2017 @03:05PM (#55711845)

      A lot of the spam is from adversarial interests against the general American population, such as ISPs, Russia, etc.

      That may have different implications than you think. Per page 13 of this analysis of the comments [broadbandforamerica.com], there were 444,938 comments submitted from Russia, and 444,925 of them were pro-NN.

      The entire comment database is freely available for download [broadcastingcable.com] if you'd like to check for yourself.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        That's Russia's standard method of operation though. They seek to inflame debates, not weigh in on them. So they will support both sides of an argument, or the weaker/anti-government side of the argument, just to make people lose faith with each other and with their government. This [abc.net.au] is a pretty good description of it. Russia doesn't actually care who "wins" the argument, only that the argument is as divisive and fractious as possible.

      • by dwpro ( 520418 )
        consider the source:

        Broadband for America members include AT&T, CenturyLink, Charter, CTIA – The Wireless Association, Comcast, Cox, NCTA – The Internet & Television Association, Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA), and USTelecom Association.

        Of course, that doesn't mean the analysis is automatically bunk, but it certainly does raise alarms. That 444,938 number you quote is based on the analysis that assumes that people were honest on the 'international address' field. Any meaningful analysis would have to go quite a bit deeper than trusting the address that someone put in. The company doing the analysis acknowledges this, noting:

        lack of user authentication by ECFS makes it difficult to determine genuine comment submissions . Emprata was also not able to authenticate the filer, address, email, or comment data used for this analysis, nor the methods used to collect those data elements . As a result, it is very difficult to draw any definitive conclusions from the comments found in the docket . Any conclusions that one might draw from the data would be based on the subset of data that they considered to be real.

        • consider the source: . . . Of course, that doesn't mean the analysis is automatically bunk, but it certainly does raise alarms.

          Which is one of the reasons I pointed out that the data source is freely downloadable (and has been digested and reposted online by at least one source I've seen in passing). Point being, there are enough eyes on the data behind this highly-charged subject that if any of the multiple reports on this data were fudging anything, I'm confident someone would have quite cheerfully pointed that out a long time ago.

          Any meaningful analysis would have to go quite a bit deeper than trusting the address that someone put in.

          But once you go there, isn't the only realistic option to just throw out the entire database since

  • In case some of you missed it, the public input wasn't a vote. It doesn't matter who or how many said they wanted it or they should get rid of it. The public comment period was seeking novel legal arguments.

    • One asks for public comments to know what the various parts of the pubic wants, to weigh in your deliberations. If you want to pretend to listen but actually ignore the comments, you have a comments period but set rules that exclude the answers you don't wish to hear.

      You can ask for only blue-haired commentators, but that would be a bit obvious. Instead, you might ask for "novel" comments, meaning only those no-one had ever made before[1].

      That should get it down to just things like "Dr Who personally s

    • The public comment period was seeking novel legal arguments.

      Yeah, so they could formulate arguments against them to defend their predetermined position, not so they could actually consider them.

  • all the way to the US Supreme Court and then see, what this whole system is worth...

  • by volkris ( 694 ) on Sunday December 10, 2017 @02:01PM (#55711613)

    The FCC is pointing out the rules under which it's legally obligated to operate.

    This notice and comment procedure is specified in law, and the FCC cannot legally deviate from it. Under the law, neither numbers of comments nor identities of commenters really matter. A regulatory body is required to address concerns raised in comments as they make their rules, but it doesn't matter who is bringing those concerns so long as they're addressed.

    The FCC is merely pointing out that there is a legal process here, and the NY State suit isn't exactly in line with the federal law.

    YES, there have been so many articles going around the internet that suggest this is some sort of voting process, that sending in form comments matter, but legally they do not. The FCC gets its orders from Congress, not from people submitting comments on the internet. Those articles were pretty damaging, misleading people about how this part of the US government is designed to operate, and leading them to misunderstand when things don't actually go the way they're told they should go.

    So we're at a place where we need to correct that misinformation. People who are interested in the functioning of a body like the FCC now need to know just how the notice and comment process works.

    By law numbers and identities don't matter for notice and comment, exactly as the FCC is pointing out. NY State should probably stop joining in on that rhetorical bandwagon suggesting otherwise.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Can you provide a quote to support your assertion that NY state has suggested what you claim they have?

      It appears to me that they've likewise pointed out the rules under which the state as well as federal agencies are legally obligated to operate.

      • by volkris ( 694 )

        "It's easy for the FCC to claim that there's no problem with the process, when they're hiding the very information that would allow us to determine if there was a problem."

        The reason there's no problem with the process here is that the information at hand has nothing at all to do with the process.

        NY State is suggesting otherwise, contrary to the Administrative Procedure Act.

  • What we are now seeing the the oligarchy is so emboldened, they are openly saying "screw you citizens, you have no rights, only we have a right to your money".
    The GOP hasn't won an honest election popular vote in 15 years - This open brazenness is just the beginning. The next step is law change. Notice that Trump has filled more Judge seats at this point in his tenure than Obama, Bush or Clinton... The GOP means to change the US in their favor, regardless of the "will of the people". We witnessing the
  • None of the comments effected the review, whether for or against. The FCC was going to roll back Net Neutrality anyway, so who cares if they did or did not investigate the issue? They have made their lack of morals and accountability abundantly clear.

  • by Picodon ( 4937267 ) on Sunday December 10, 2017 @09:35PM (#55713411)

    [The FCC's general counsel] added that Schneiderman's request for logs of IP addresses would (...) “raise significant personal privacy concerns.”

    I love that one, coming from the FCC when, to everyone’s surprise, they published (freely downloadable) the full set of comments [broadcastingcable.com], complete with not only names, but also e-mail address and (if provided) home address of their authors.

  • We have to decide whose government this is. Is it owned by Verizon (Ajit Pai's old employer)? Or is it owned by the people?

    The FCC should not have the power to withhold data like this. This is our government. That is our data.

    It just shows you who Ajit Pai is working for. (Hint: Unless you're the CEO of Verizon, Ajit Pai is not working for you.)

  • Let's face it (Score:4, Insightful)

    by JustAnotherOldGuy ( 4145623 ) on Sunday December 10, 2017 @11:50PM (#55713841)

    Let's face it- the fix is in.

    Net neutrality is going to be removed because doing so will allow large corporations to make a shitload of money, AND because it will stifle the free exchange of information (including important political news and information).

    Politicians HATE the fat that ordinary people can use the internet to help track what our government does. They HATE the fact that millions of people can instantly find out what they're doing, and band together to try and effect some change.

    This benefits NO ONE except the mega-corps and politicians, and so they're going to do it no matter what we mere mortals want.

  • perhaps the real issue here is the fcc covering up their lack of competence to manage a basic internet information service. The irony hurts. Really, that seems like what this maneuver may accomplish as far as sweeping the key issue under the rug. Just like their handwaving reference to 'our commercial cloud partners' when talking about how their information service will handle the ddos issue. Of course the mind boggling thing is that *presumably* they have effectively the knowledge base of the entire fu

  • Of course they are... I mean, they spent all that time and money creating bots to flood the site with them in the first place. Why would they want to backtrack on that now?
  • The FCC's own rulemaking process [fcc.gov] requires it.

    However, nothing obligates them to give a rat's ass about what they learn from it. Your tax dollars at work.

    Never confuse "We want to hear from you" with "We care about what you say."

  • So releasing the IP addresses would "raise significant privacy concerns," but requiring the name and home address for every comment and making it publicly available on the internet does not? Or are you just afraid that the IP addresses won't remotely match the postal addresses? And that they suspiciously originate from a data center somewhere in Northern Virginia?

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