Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Senators: Fake Comments Are Identity Theft

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Senators: Fake Comments Are Identity Theft

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -First fake news. Now fake comments.

A policy junkie who sifts through regulatory agencies' public comments could be left with the wrong impression of where millions of people -including lawmakers -stand on net neutrality rules, which now prohibit internet service providers from adjusting traffic speeds or web access based on content.

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., supports the Federal Communications Commission's decision to rescind the Obama-era rules. U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., opposes the FCC's decision.

But public comments made to the FCC, which are searchable online, show the opposite.

"I don't want [internet service providers] to have the power to block websites, slow them down, give some sites an advantage over others, or split the internet into 'fast lanes' for companies that pay and 'slow lanes' for the rest," says a public comment attributed to Mr. Toomey. The trouble is, he didn't write it and believes just the opposite -that deregulation will encourage innovation.

And a comment wrongly attributed to Mr. Merkley supports the FCC's repeal, which, in actuality, he opposes.

The Pew Research Center last year identified seven separate comments that had been submitted more than 500,000 times each. The one wrongly attributed to Mr. Toomey was among them, having been submitted 2.8 million times under different names.

Often, tens of thousands of identical comments were uploaded simultaneously, Pew found. Most of the repetitive comments that Pew identified were in support of net neutrality.

Mr. Toomey and Mr. Merkley consider the wrongly attributed comments to be examples of identity theft, and they want the FCC to do something about it.

"We are writing to express our concerns about these fake comments and the need to identify fraudulent behavior in the rulemaking process," the senators wrote Monday in a joint letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. …

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