The federal government is now looking into faked comments posted to the FCC’s website during last year’s public comment period on the agency’s plans to roll back net neutrality internet protections. According to Buzzfeed News, the FBI has launched an investigation to determine if any laws were broken.
In May 2017, the FCC began accepting comments from the general public regarding its plans, pulling in more than 2.6 million comments, spurred on by television personalities like John Oliver. The agency was inundated with tens of thousands of near-identical comments advocating for the removal of the protections (a study later found that unique comments were overwhelmingly asking for the rules to be left in place), and while those comments were attached to legitimate names and addresses, many of the supposed commenters said that they weren’t the ones who submitted them.
This is the first time that a federal agency has begun looking into the case. Buzzfeed says that the Justice Department is working to determine if those comments violated the law by essentially using stolen identities, and has issued subpoenas to a handful of organizations related to the comments.
A year ago, the New York Attorney General’s office began its own investigation and issued subpoenas to over a dozen telecommunications lobbying groups this past October. Buzzfeed also reports that the Attorney General offices of Massachusetts and Washington, DC are supporting the efforts of their New York counterpart, and have also issued subpoenas.