A multi-year investigation led by the New York Attorney General's office uncovered the fact that 18 million out of the more than 22 million comments submitted to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) about 2017’s rollback of net neutrality to repeal its 2017 rules were fake.
Publishing the discovery on May 6, the NY Attorney General Letitia James outlined that on top of the 18 million fake comments sent to the FCC, 500,000 letters were sent to Congress, and that the U.S.'s largest broadband companies led and funded the fraudulent campaign that generated millions of fake comments.
In doing so, these broadband companies managed to get 8.5 million fake comments that impersonated real citizens submitted to the FCC. On top of that, just one 19-year old student created and submitted 7.7 million comments by using an automated system, while the rest were submitted by unknown accounts.
"Americans voices are being drowned out by masses of fake comments and messages being submitted to the government to sway decision-making," said Attorney General James.
"Instead of actually looking for real responses from the American people, marketing companies are luring vulnerable individuals to their websites with freebies, co-opting their identities, and fabricating responses that giant corporations are then using to influence the polices and laws that govern our lives."
Net neutrality pros and cons
Net neutrality's aim is for internet service providers (ISP) to treat all internet communications equally, without discriminating or charging differently based on user, content, website, type of equipment, source address, and more. If there is no net neutrality in place, ISPs can block, slow down, or charge money for specific online content.
Back in 2015 in the U.S., the FCC gained net neutrality. However, the terms and conditions meant that it had a very short expiry date of two years, after which it was overturned. People have been divided over net neutrality for years, as there are pros and cons to both sides.
For those people who argue for net neutrality, they say that it enables freedom of expression, promotes innovation and competition, and gives unblocked access, as IT Pro explains. Whereas those who oppose net neutrality argue that there is less network innovation, questionable content thrives, and there is no free internet access.
As Public Knowledge pointed out, net neutrality is nothing new, but it is important more than ever, explaining how broadband providers have been violating net neutrality for years. Almost as long as the internet has been in place.
With net neutrality in place, hypothetically, all traffic should be treated fairly, without prioritizing or penalizing traffic from domain names, service providers, or publishers — which is already embedded in European law, but isn't so popular in the U.S., reports IT Pro.
So, the fact that 80 percent of the 22 million submissions to the FCC turned out to be fake is a huge blow to the entire process around net neutrality in the U.S.