Net neutrality activists are demanding that the Federal Communications Commission investigate a series of messages sent to the agency that allegedly impersonate people who did not sign or support those public comments.
More than a dozen people sent a letter to the FCC Thursday saying that their names and contact information were improperly used as part of a widespread political campaign meant to discredit the commission's net neutrality rules.
Calling on the FCC to investigate and delete the "dishonest and deceitful" messages made in their name, the regular citizens said officials cannot afford to ignore the flood of fake comments apparently designed "to manufacture false support for your plan to repeal net neutrality protections."
The FCC has proposed to roll back net neutrality regulations put in place during the Obama administration. Those rules were implemented to keep Internet providers from abusing their strategic position between customers and the rest of the Web. Supporters of the rules say they are needed to shield consumers from potentially anticompetitive behavior, while opponents argue the rules are unnecessarily restrictive and block ISPs from finding new ways to make money.
The fight has grown increasingly political. People on each side have accused the other of using robots to flood the docket with automated comments, using hateful language or, in some cases, pretending to be other people. The FCC's comment system also recently crashed after what the agency said was a deliberate denial-of-service attack. Critics of the FCC say the problems plaguing the comment system have undermined the democratic process.
"To see my good name used to present an opinion diametrically opposed to my own view on Net Neutrality makes me feel sad and violated," Joel Mullaney, one of the people who signed Thursday's letter, told Fight for the Future — the activist group that organized the letter. "Whoever did this violated one of the most basic norms of our democratic society, that each of us have our own voice, and I am eager to know from what source the FCC obtained this falsified affidavit. I have been slandered."
Responding to questions about the comment system last week, officials referred reporters to the agency's information technology and media relations teams. On Thursday, the FCC declined to comment but referred reporters to Pai's previous statements.
"What matters most are the quality of the comments, not the quantity," Pai told reporters last week. "We will make our decision based on the facts that are in the record and on the relevant law that is presented – and obviously fake comments such as the ones submitted last week by the Flash, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman and Superman are not going to dramatically impact our deliberations on this issue."