Detailed analysis of the record 22 million comments filed with the agency indicate the majority of the public overwhelmingly supports keeping the rules intact. But several analysts also found that some group or individual tried to counter this genuine opposition with fake support for the plan. Schneiderman's office believes these comments were filed by a bot that pulled identities from a compromised database of some kind.
According to Schneiderman, his office made nine attempts over a period of five months to obtain server logs, API key details, or other information that could aid his office’s investigation into the identity theft. But in a public letter to FCC boss Ajit Pai, Schneiderman noted that the agency simply refused to aid the investigation in any capacity whatsoever.“We all have a powerful reason to hold accountable those who would steal Americans’ identities and assault the public’s right to be heard in government rulemaking,” argued Schneiderman. “If law enforcement can’t investigate and (where appropriate) prosecute when it happens on this scale, the door is open for it to happen again and again.” Last week, the FCC doubled down on its refusal to cooperate in a more formal response to the AG.
"We all have a powerful reason to hold accountable those who would steal Americans’ identities and assault the public’s right to be heard in government rulemaking"
Given many of these folks either don’t exist or are mysteriously deceased, this sudden professed dedication to consumer privacy rings hollow (especially given the agency’s recent support of killing consumer broadband privacy protections). Similarly, FCC staffers have told me it would be relatively trivial for the FCC to provide data indicating which group used FCC APIs to submit fraudulent comments en masse.Needless to say, Schneiderman’s office wasn’t particularly impressed by the FCC’s apathy to the problem."Today the FCC make[s] clear that it will continue to obstruct a law enforcement investigation," said Amy Spitalnick, a spokeswoman for Schneiderman’s office. "It’s easy for the FCC to claim that there’s no problem with the process, when they’re hiding the very information that would allow us to determine if there was a problem." FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel also blasted the FCC's refusal to cooperate. "This letter shows the FCC’s sheer contempt for public input and unreasonable failure to support integrity in its process," said Rosenworcel. "To put it simply, there is evidence in the FCC’s files that fraud has occurred and the FCC is telling law enforcement and victims of identity theft that it is not going to help. Moreover, the FCC refuses to look into how nearly half a million comments came from Russian sources. Failure to investigate this corrupted record undermines our process for seeking public input in the digital age."As it stands, consumer advocacy firms indicate that undermining the process appears to have been the entire point. If you downplay the importance and integrity of the public’s one opportunity to weigh in on the FCC’s plan, it’s easier to pretend said plan is in the public interest.Unfortunately for the FCC, this problem won’t be going away anytime soon. Despite requests to delay the vote by Schneiderman’s office and others, the FCC is scheduled to repeal the rules on Thursday. Once the repeal hits the federal register in January, the FCC will be bombarded with lawsuits accusing the agency of ignoring the public interest. Expect the agency’s failure to police comment fraud to play a starring role in these legal arguments to come.
"This letter shows the FCC’s sheer contempt for public input and unreasonable failure to support integrity in its process"