Eleven House Democrats want the Government Accountability Office to investigate the allegedly fake comments filed with the Federal Communications Commission on net neutrality, and the extent to which Americans’ identities were fraudulently used during the public comment period.
Democratic Reps. Gregory Meeks of New York, Elijah Cummings of Maryland, and Frank Pallone of New Jersey, led the group of Democrats who asked the GAO to look into the prevalence of outside groups stealing Americans’ identities and using them to file fake net neutrality comments with the FCC.
“We understand that the FCC’s rulemaking process requires it to address all comments it receives, regardless of who submits them,” the Democrats wrote in their letter. “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 lawmakers asked the GAO to investigate the information the FCC is allegedly keeping from New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman as part of his probe into the misuse of New Yorkers' names and addresses.
According to the lawmakers, it is a felony to “'knowingly or willfully’ make ‘any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation’ in any matter under the Executive Branch’s jurisdiction.”
Schneiderman said in an open letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai last month he has been investigating a scheme to flood the commission with fake net neutrality comments for the last few months.
The New York attorney general said his office discovered “tens of thousands” of New Yorkers identities had been misused to file the comments — a violation of state law — as have the identities of residents in six other states.
Schneiderman said he asked the FCC several times for records related to its public comment system, but hasn’t received a “substantive response” to his requests.
Several studies have found that millions of net neutrality comments filed with the FCC were fake or used false information. In response to these reports, a group of more than two dozen senators pressured Pai to delay the FCC’s vote next week to repeal net neutrality rules until an investigation into the comments can be completed.
The Obama-era rules were designed to ensure that all web content is treated equally.