US investigators are investigating whether the mass submission of millions of fraudulent net neutrality letters to the Federal Communications Commission's digital commentary system was a crime Buzzfeed News reported Saturday in an investigation by the US Ministry of Justice.
According to BuzzFeed's report, two organizations that had previously received subpoenas from a separate New York Attorney General's office confirmed that they had received new summonses from FBI:
Two organizations shared Buzzfeed News, each on the condition that they should not be mentioned that the FBI brought them summons in connection with the comments.
The reports are the first that interest investigators of the federal government in the case was already the subject of an investigation that had previously been announced by the prosecutor in New York.
Both organizations had previously been summoned by New York and said the scope of these subpoenas was similar.
It's about millions of public comments submitted to the FCC for withdrawal – as required by law – regarding the agency's proposal at the time Barack Obama era Net neutrality rules. Over 22 million comments have been submitted. While estimates of how many of them were either counterfeits (which were reported to involve mass identity fraud using real names), duplicates, or mass mailings submitted in bulk, there is general consensus that the vast majority are not is uniquely written letters. A study by Stanford University researcher Ryan Singel found that there were only 800,000 unique comments, of which 99.7 percent were against pushing back the rules.
For months, the FCC had insisted that the commenting system be subjected to a cyber attack with the chairman and Donald Trump's appointed Ajit Pai, who later admitted that there had never been an event – which led to speculation, and Pai had purposely spread a false story to downplay the volume of comments in support of net neutrality.
Contrary to regulatory slowdowns and the outcry of many tech companies, telecoms companies that could make a lot of money out of less regulation advocated this very much. The FCC commissioners voted last year to cancel the rules in a 3: 2 vote that fell directly after the parties (with three Republicans in support and two Democrats in opposition), despite Attorney Generals in 22 states and Washington, DC as well Consumer groups and the Internet company Mozilla are suing the annulment of the decision.
The fiasco around the comment system has not disappeared either.
In October, the New York Times reported New York state officials had "summoned more than a dozen" telecommunications trading groups, lobbying contractors and Washington interest groups as part of the Attorney General's investigation. This number included both groups that supported and opposed the rollback, although most subpoenas were directed at groups interested in Pai's agenda. According to the BuzzFeed report, the Attorney General's offices in Massachusetts and Washington, DC, have also filed allegations and support the investigation in New York:
Their involvement has not been reported so far.
The federal summons arrived a few days ago According to the state authorities, the two organizations said BuzzFeed News.
The scope of federal investigations is unclear: Other organizations that received summons from Attorney Generals did not respond to requests. The Attorney General of Washington and the FBI did not respond to a request for comment. Earlier this week, the FCC refused to release server logs related to the incident to BuzzFeed News and the New York Times, which had filed both Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests the records. A separate lawsuit between the FCC and journalist Jason Prechtel ended a few months ago with a judge who said that the agency must meet with him to publish e-mails that were used to send the mass commentaries. However, Prechtel has not been granted the right to order the release of server logs or unaddressed versions of emails between FCC officials and the "Advocacy Services" company CQ Roll Call, which the FCC appears to support in uploading mass comments in the Unidentified CQ Names Show Roll Call Customers. (As Prechtel noted on Medium, the company asked the FCC for support "before [the FCC order repealing net neutrality] was even formally announced.")
"What's hiding the Federal Communications Commission?" Wrote FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel in March 2018 ed. "While millions of Americans have attempted to inform the FCC process by submitting comments and sharing their deep-seated opinions about the openness of the Internet, millions of other claims in the neutral database seem to be the result of fraud. Nine and a half million people were stolen from their identities and falsified comments. This is a crime under federal and state laws.