Eleven Democrats from the House of Representatives have called on the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate fake comments that appeared to have posted on the Federal Communication Commission‘s website during the public comment period for its plan to dismantle net neutrality rules.
The letter asks the GAO to investigate the “extent and pervasiveness of fraud and the misuse of American identities” during the open comment period for the FCC’s plan to rescind the Obama-era rules that protect net neutrality, a founding principle of the internet that ensures all internet traffic is treated fairly.
“We understand that the FCC’s rulemaking process requires it to address all comments it receives, regardless of who submits them,” the letter reads. “However, we do not believe any outside parties should be permitted to generate any comments to any federal governmental entity using information it knows to be false, such as the identities of those submitting the comments.”
The public comment for the FCC’s plan has been scrutinized, culminating in an investigation by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. The attorney general said they reviewed the more than 22 million comments submitted to the FCC and that “hundreds of thousands of Americans” had their identities stolen.
The FCC responded to the letter, which asked that the vote to repeal the net neutrality rules on Dec. 14 be delayed due to the fake comments, by denying their request and calling it “desperate.”
The vote has been met with intense pushback. Earlier this summer internet activists, technology companies, and websites joined together to host an Internet-Wide Day of Action To Save Net Neutrality, which led to more than triple the amount of comments submitted to the FCC than the 2014 “Internet Slowdown” that spurred the Obama-era net neutrality rules.