Over 1.3 million Federal Communications Commission (FCC) comments came from Russia and other foreign countries, according to a new study commissioned by the National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC).
The NLPC studied comments submitted between July 3 and the net neutrality “day of action” on July 12 and found that 1.3 million comments came from France, Russia, Germany. Many of the comments came exclusively from Pornhub.com and Hurra.de, a German email domain. The FCC continues to seek comments on their proposed rulemaking to repeal the agency’s controversial net neutrality order.
When the FCC proposes a new rule, the agency seeks feedback from the public, industry groups, and other interested parties to improve their rulemaking process. Although the FCC has accepted comments from concerned citizens, the comment system in the past has included fake comments from Jesus and comments threatening the life of the FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.
NLPC’s analysis found that:
- 325,076 comments came from Germany.
- 325,528 comments came from one Russian address (улица Полевая кв. 391 Челябинск, Россия).
- 101,192 comments came from France.
- 476,937 comments came from the United States, however, were submitted in the FCC’s file system as “international flier.”
One million more comments come from an email address with a Pornhub.com domain. Roughly 19,000 comments followed a similar pattern that users created using fake email generator programs.
National Legal and Policy Center President Peter Flaherty said:
As we have noted in our previous two analyses, the gaming of the comment submission process continues and in fact appears to have reached epidemic proportions. Pro-net neutrality supporters like Fight for the Future reported generating more than 2 million comments into the FCC’s docket during the Day of Action. However, our analysis shows that more than half of the comments generated in the past two weeks appear to be fake, utilizing fake email addresses fake domains such as Pornhub.com, addresses that are clearly foreign, and hundreds of thousands which even use Cyrillic characters.
Last month, Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) called for an investigation into allegedly fake comments submitted by net neutrality opponents. However, Pallone has not called into question whether net neutrality supporters have also filed fake net neutrality comments to the FCC. Flaherty charged, “We call on Representative Pallone to condemn the gaming of the FCC comment process by the filing of millions of pro-net neutrality comments that are clearly fake.”
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai explained last week at the FCC’s monthly open meeting that the quality of comments surpasses the quantity of comments on each side of the debate. Pai said:
Again, as I said previously, the raw number is not as important as the substantive comments that are in the record. We want to weigh all comments and make sure that we take a full view of the record and again make the appropriate judgment based on those facts and the law as it applies.
“At this point, the deception appears to be so massive that the comment process has been rendered unmanageable and meaningless,” Flaherty concluded. “More ominously, with hundreds of thousands of comments appearing to come from Russia, we must ask ourselves whether once again, Russian interests are attempting to sow chaos in U.S. official policymaking proceedings.”
Read the NLPC study here.