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More Than a Million Pro-Repeal Net Neutrality Comments Were Likely Faked (hackernoon.com) 177

Jeff Kao from Hacker Noon used natural language processing techniques to analyze net neutrality comments submitted to the FCC from April-October 2017 and found that at least 1.3 million pro-repeal net neutrality comments were faked. From the report: NY Attorney General Schneiderman estimated that hundreds of thousands of Americans' identities were stolen and used in spam campaigns that support repealing net neutrality. My research found at least 1.3 million fake pro-repeal comments, with suspicions about many more. In fact, the sum of fake pro-repeal comments in the proceeding may number in the millions. In this post, I will point out one particularly egregious spambot submission, make the case that there are likely many more pro-repeal spambots yet to be confirmed, and estimate the public position on net neutrality in the "organic" public submissions. [The key findings include:]

1. One pro-repeal spam campaign used mail-merge to disguise 1.3 million comments as unique grassroots submissions.
2. There were likely multiple other campaigns aimed at injecting what may total several million pro-repeal comments into the system.
3. It's highly likely that more than 99% of the truly unique comments were in favor of keeping net neutrality.

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More Than a Million Pro-Repeal Net Neutrality Comments Were Likely Faked

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    It wouldn't have mattered if 100% of the comments were against net neutrality. The politicians are paid for and big businesses wants this, so it's happening. Now bend over and lube up so the raping won't hurt as much.

    • by PPH ( 736903 )

      It may be happening regardless. But keep working the analysis on the comments. In particular, anything that might identify their source.

      IANAL, but this kind of misrepresentation could be grounds for charges under Section 1001, Title 18 USC [wikipedia.org]. A friendlier future administration might pursue charges.

    • by AvitarX ( 172628 )

      Specific big business even.

      There's plenty of big business that wants NN

    • by jonwil ( 467024 ) on Friday November 24, 2017 @11:06PM (#55618599)

      "big business" doesn't want this (I would say that companies like Facebook (500bn+ market cap as of right now) and Google (700bn+ market cap) are more than big enough to quality as "big business".

      The opposition is comming from one type of company specifically and that is the Pay TV industry. Companies that distribute linear TV channels via cable, satellite, fiber or other technologies hate net neutrality because the Internet makes it possible to distribute content easily and bypass these gatekeepers and their dinosaur business model.

      The same thing happened in Australia at the last federal elections where Rupert Murdoch (who's empire has control over Foxtel, the main Pay TV company in Australia) used the front pages of his newspapers to declare war on the fiber-to-the-premises National Broadband Network because such a network would have been a big threat to Foxtel.

  • Just in time (Score:5, Insightful)

    by slashmydots ( 2189826 ) on Friday November 24, 2017 @09:49PM (#55618363)
    for it to be investigated by nobody ever because this entire thing is crooked AF and that asshole behind it is a Verizon shill. He should be removed from office and charged with bribery and treason.
    • The same goes for his master who appointed him.
      • by sconeu ( 64226 )

        Uh... he was appointed by Obama. Trump just made him the chair.

        • Uh... he was appointed by Obama. Trump just made him the chair.

          Uh... you don't understand English. He was appointed by Obama, and appointed again by Trump.

    • by StormReaver ( 59959 ) on Saturday November 25, 2017 @06:51AM (#55619517)

      He should be removed from office and charged with bribery and treason.

      And so should Ajit Pai.

    • by pots ( 5047349 )
      This is a good point. I usually just think about this in terms of the legislative consequences, but there has to be some criminal component here. Who is responsible for prosecuting something like this, and why have I never heard of them actually doing it?
  • We need to do less with HASTE! As long as we do nothing about it the free market will work out a solution and we can avoid communism and loose our freedoms and end up like Cuba if we investigtate.

    • Re:Quick! (Score:4, Informative)

      by gtall ( 79522 ) on Saturday November 25, 2017 @08:19AM (#55619779)

      Really? The free market didn't bust up the trusts at the beginning of the 1900s. It didn't break up the AT&T monopoly. It failed to break up the crock that is Microsoft. And now it is failing to prevent concentration of owners of national media given the latest shit storm from the FCC and Congress. Preventing the AT&T's current merger is no coup, it is merely because the Knob in the oval office doesn't like CNN because they aren't as sycophantic as Fox, so that is not for principled reasons but for one of the most base examples of political stupidity.

  • .. the actual proposed changes :

    http://transition.fcc.gov/Dail... [fcc.gov]

    Oh look, this is all about changing back ISP classification from Utilities to Information services. Not so black and white now uh ? Too bad the media is banking on keeping people mad and uninformed.

    • Fuck you moron. This is about taking ALL protection away from ISP abuse and rent seeking. Only a moron would claim its "just about reclassifying them as an information service"

      • No it's not dipshit, if you reclassify ISP's you don't need to worry about the LEC classification barrier and we can have municipal fibre open up to any little business that wants to run their own ISP and can fill the minimum requirements. As it is big telcos have locked everyone out of LEC [Utility] applications basically by bribing Congress and harassing municipalities with shared fibre infrastructure.

        I'm not saying repealing NN was a good idea but NN was a bandaid on a broken leg. The whole thing needs t

        • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
          Re "reclassify ISP's you don't need to worry about the LEC classification barrier and we can have municipal fibre open up to any little business that wants to run their own ISP and can fill the minimum requirements."

          Thats the good change. No longer can a large telco claim they are the only network able to support NN. No other network could enter the market was is not totally federally NN compliant.
          That color of law federal lobby effort held back a lot of new network innovation around the USA.
          Steep
          • Yeah but I'm reserving my optimism. Just because this door is being opened by the NN repeal doesn't mean telcos don't already have a full on assault ready to close it again *without* NN. After all they've surely got plenty of senators they've been sucking off in preparation to this.

            All that said I don't actually live in America so despite the fact I find this whole situation interesting it doesn't actually effect me. I've got a 2Gbps fibre line to my home for about $50USD a month because I live in a country

        • by mikael ( 484 )

          This is the future if we are not careful:

          https://www.meo.pt/telemovel/t... [www.meo.pt]

          This is for mobile, but you end having to pay an extra $5 for every "bundle" of mainstream web sites (Video, Social, Messaging) that you want unlimited access.

    • So you agree it would totally fuck the internet? THANKS!

      The internet IS a utility and should be protected like one (see below).. if that wasn't possible maybe you'd have a point...

      https://arstechnica.com/tech-p... [arstechnica.com]

    • A common carrier operates a communications network for hire to carry customers data essentially unchanged. An information service is a commercial publisher that supplies data through a communications network (typically, using a common carrier), or otherwise processes and store customers data. ISPs are common carriers while web site or cloud storage operators are information services.

      Reclassifying ISPs as information services is in blatant contradiction with those definitions (written in the telecommunicatio

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The issue is more complex. The reason for the change from IS to Util was because a supreme court case ruled aspects of a 2010 bill were not enforceable. The 2010 bill was a result of another supreme court ruling on a previous bill.

      The result is that reverting the classification means that the protections in previous laws -- which have now been overturned -- are known not to exist.

      The FCC proposal is essentially that the ISP industry can self-regulate. The opposing position is that the ISP industry -- con

  • Just a hunch (Score:5, Insightful)

    by boudie2 ( 1134233 ) on Friday November 24, 2017 @10:04PM (#55618417)
    I have a feeling that, and let me go out on a limb here, this may not be the last story we see about net neutrality.
    • I have a feeling that, and let me go out on a limb here, this may not be the last story we see about net neutrality.

      I suppose it's the nerd equivalent of the 2016 elections.

    • I have a feeling that, and let me go out on a limb here, this may not be the last story we see about net neutrality.

      Is that because people in general don't just roll over and call it quits when a corrupt official goes against the will of the general public in order to appease a few small corporations?

      • Perhaps. Was thinking more along the lines of first seeing a draft of the proposed legislation, arguments on both sides and how it plays out. It could just be another diversion as in "look at this shiny object while I pick your pockets". Could this be the end of the Internet as we know it? Stay tuned.
  • I bet they were considered anyway [vocativ.com] even if they made no serious legal argument [slashdot.org] whatsoever

  • by Anonymous Coward

    No identities were "stolen". It is not possible to "steal" an identity.

    What should be said is that the crime of IMPERSONATION occurred and the RELYING PARTY made a MISTAKE of fact and law in RELYING on the IMPERSONATOR and is therefore liable both criminally and civilly for the result/consequence of that mistaken reliance.

    At least that is how it works in the free world (China, Russia, Burma, Canada, etc.). Perhaps communist/fascist countries such as the US have somewhat different law from the rest of the

  • The cork-schnorkeler in charge of the FCC would have schnorkled the corks he was beholden to schnorkel no matter how the comments would have shaken out.

  • With the apparent integration between the Republican party and Russia it's getting harder to tell the home-grown corruption from the interference of a hostile foreign power.

    • I always wondered about what it must have been like to live through the Red Scare, people seeing TEH ROOSHUNS under the bed. Well, we have the answer now, it looks like today, Red Scare Part II. People are blaming everything on TEH ROOSHUNS, though their power today is a shadow of what it was in the 1950s.
      • by Altrag ( 195300 )

        No, we're mostly only blaming Trump and related politics on the Russians. Maybe if Trump was more successful at well.. anything.. in office, we'd be more concerned on a wider scale but for now its closer to an orange joke than a red scare.

    • As I've pointed out elsewhere, the sheer volume of comments on either side of an issue is irrelevant to the U.S. administrative rulemaking process. That being the case, the "Rooshun interference" meme sorta loses its bite here.

      But to the extent you feel otherwise, comments from Russia were actually pro Net Neutrality [washingtonpost.com]:

      Brian Hart, an FCC spokesman, said the agency lacks the resources to investigate every comment. Supporters of the net neutrality rules are not blameless either, he added, pointing to 7.5 million comments filed in favor of the regulations that appeared to come from 45,000 distinct email addresses, "all generated by a single fake e-mail generator website." Some 400,000 comments backing the rules, he said, appeared to originate from a mailing address based in Russia.

      "The most suspicious activity has been by those supporting Internet regulation," said Hart.

      • Would be interesting if true, but since the chairman repeatedly lies his ass off about objective facts, I have little confidence in anyone he would appoint to represent his agency.
    • You know, you'd think after a year of the most intense scrutiny by official (Mueller) and unofficial (every media organization ever) organizations, there'd be something like, well, actual proof - right?

      If the Republicans are that good at running a covert operation with the Russians, well hell, they may indeed be the best party to run government.

    • by Xyrus ( 755017 )

      Without net neutrality, companies would be free to filter information however they want. It would be trivial to influence elections and policies, and they would have all the rights in the world to do so. Don't like it? Switch to another ISP...awww you don't have another ISP? Welcome to RT injected ads 24/7.

    • by Agripa ( 139780 )

      The US and reconstituted Soviet government could join forces to make a world government. We could call it the CoDominium with different areas represented by Grand Senators.

  • This is about building the great Firewall of USA. The Public internet Started under Title II in the 90s, as just an aspect of Phone Service. During the Bush years, they were reclassified as Title I, for a while, then Obama got in office and his FCC head made it Title II again.

    The problem really is this: 2016's election was a kind of political Coup of sorts on both parties.

    What happened was, that there was racist blowback from Obama by racist white voters, and displaced workers. Some of the complaints were l

    • I think I've found my candidate for the 2017 Poe's Law [wikipedia.org] Award.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Ok, this was clearly an organized campaign by one of the big providers, and is it is blatantly illegal on many fronts, not to mention a direct attack on the democratic process.

    There needs to be a full scale no holds barred investigation into this, and the corporations responsible need to be held accountable, including jail time and fund freezing for every traitor who new about this, and a literal fine so large that the treasonous companies will have difficult recovering from it.

    Ajit Pai is corrupt and need

  • Time to get into the proxy business. or just an affiliate. :P https://www.hidemyass.com/en-c... [hidemyass.com] ya... bite me
    • by mark-t ( 151149 )
      It's a pretty safe bet that once your ISP no longer observes net neutrality, you probably won't be able to connect to a proxy, because you'll get a no-route-to-host message if you try to connect to unapproved sites, regardless of protocol.
      • Probably not. It would just reduce utility to the customer too much - there would be the type of public outcry that even the mighty telecoms lobbyists would struggle to counteract.

        More likely you'll still be able to connect to unapproved sites, but only at what the ISP may call 'high speed' - actually consisting of an old gigabit ethernet cable serving each thousand-customer node, where you get to enjoy constant buffering any time you want video, failed downloads and general unpleasantness. While those site

  • There is no low low enough for Corporate America to sink to.
  • by c ( 8461 ) <beauregardcp@gmail.com> on Saturday November 25, 2017 @08:17AM (#55619775)

    Not saying that the entire process isn't shady as hell, but I'm honestly a bit puzzled why anyone would bother... it's been obvious to anyone with half a clue that Pai was going to ram this through with zero consideration of opposing viewpoints, so what's the point in faking a million comments either way?

  • A description of the process from the Federal Register [federalregister.gov]:

    The notice-and-comment process enables anyone to submit a comment on any part of the proposed rule. This process is not like a ballot initiative or an up-or-down vote in a legislature. An agency is not permitted to base its final rule on the number of comments in support of the rule over those in opposition to it. At the end of the process, the agency must base its reasoning and conclusions on the rulemaking record, consisting of the comments, scientific data, expert opinions, and facts accumulated during the prerule and proposed rule stages.

    So whoever thought that flooding the site with automated comments could tip the balance either way (and there were millions
    on both sides of the issue [washingtonpost.com]) was just flat wrong.

    As is everyone on here moaning that this is a harbinger of the fall of democracy in the USA.

    • At the end of the process, the agency must base its reasoning and conclusions on the rulemaking record, consisting of the comments, scientific data, expert opinions, and facts accumulated during the prerule and proposed rule stages.

      That they're supposed to do that, but instead and in direct contradiction to that, while openly lying about what the facts are, are simply doing the bidding of the big telecom companies, who the chairman is very clearly a shill for, acting indisputably against the best interests of the country, is why this is a problem for democracy. I don't think anyone is claiming that the *only* problem is that they don't base their policies on the popular vote of submitted comments. But as the passage you cited suggests

      • I don't think anyone is claiming that the *only* problem is that they don't base their policies on the popular vote of submitted comments. But as the passage you cited suggests, that is *part* of it.

        I read that part of the passage as referring to the content of the comments, not the volume (and relevant, substantive content at that -- not stuff that reduces down to "the future of our democracy hangs on my ability to receive unlimited NetFlix for a low fixed price"). That's consistent with what I've read about the process elsewhere. But please let me know if you know of something that clearly states otherwise.

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