Ron DeSantis speaking in front of American flag (l) man holding Ethernet cable Net Neutrality concept (r)

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EXCLUSIVE: DeSantis’ new campaign deputy was part of massive anti-net neutrality campaign that used dead people to spam the FCC

Ethan Eilon co-founded a group that was subpoenaed for its allegedly fraudulent anti-net neutrality efforts.


Mikael Thalen


Posted on Jul 25, 2023   Updated on Jul 30, 2023, 5:17 am CDT

A GOP consultant set to be the next deputy campaign manager for presidential hopeful Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) was part of the infamous astroturfing campaign against net neutrality.

Ethan Eilon, who Bloomberg reported is being promoted by DeSantis from digital director to deputy campaign manager, is alleged to have numerous ties to the myriad efforts that saw the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) flooded with millions of fraudulent comments supporting the 2017 decision to repeal net neutrality.

As reported by Gizmodo in 2019, an organization co-founded by Eilon, Free Our Internet, was one of numerous groups subpoenaed by the New York attorney general over the astroturfing campaign.

Aside from his work with DeSantis, Eilon ran a marketing firm known as Conservative Connector. The firm received over $31 million during the 2016 presidential election from the campaign of former President Donald Trump and the Republican National Committee.

The astroturfing effort helped give the Trump administration cover to repeal net neutrality, a popular initiative among big telecom companies, but one that the vast majority of Americans oppose.

Trump’s FCC Commissioner, Ajit Pai, used the reams of comments claiming they supported the repeal to push through a vote.

The campaign unraveled after dozens of Americans came forward to say that their identities had been used in some of the more than 22 million fraudulent comments to the FCC. Specifically, according to investigators in New York, roughly 9.35 million comments had been singled out as suspicious due to their use of Americans’ names that were unaware of the issue altogether. Hundreds of thousands of the comments also used the exact same wording when protesting net neutrality.

The names of dead people were also used.

The comments were largely traced back to Broadband for America, a big telecom front that spearheaded the campaign. Three groups under the auspices of Broadband for America were fined by New York.

Free Our Internet, the group co-founded by Eilon, as well as Vertical Strategies, a firm of his, were among one of a dozen additional entities that caught the attention of investigators.

According to Your Fake Comment, which sourced spam messages sent to the FCC, Eilon’s organization sent approximately 5 million comments to the FCC.

As reported by the Daily Dot in 2015, Eilon was also reported to have co-founded a group known as Protect Internet Freedom. The organization was responsible for a bizarre porn parody that attempted to discredit net neutrality as well, but which was widely mocked.

Although the group claimed to be independent, one of its founders had ties to then-Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.)

Although support for net neutrality remains popular, efforts to reinstate it have been repeatedly stymied by Republicans.

Eilon did not respond to a message requesting comment.

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*First Published: Jul 25, 2023, 8:10 am CDT