The Flim Flam Men

The FCC just voted to end Net Neutrality. The FCC vote was along party lines, note, with all Democratic appointees voting against. This is another case of Republican officials taking a deeply unpopular stand. Polls show 83 percent of Americans favor net neutrality, which includes a majority of tea baggers.

The primary political argument against net neutrality is, of course, that it’s government regulation. I think the wingnuts bought that one for a while. But of course the real reason for ending it is that it allows the big tech companies to squeeze more money out of customers while providing less service. Win/win!

Apparently the FCC had solicited public comments on the issue, but New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman found that there were two million fake comments on the FCC site.

Schneiderman set up a website where people can search the FCC comments for their names to determine if they’ve been impersonated. So far, “over 5,000 people have filed reports with the Attorney General’s office regarding identities used to submit fake comments,” the AG’s announcement said. …

…While the 5,000 reports provide anecdotal evidence, the AG’s office performed an analysis of the 23 million public comments in order to figure out how many were submitted under falsely assumed identities.

Many comments for and against net neutrality rules are identical because advocacy groups urged people to sign form letters, so the text of a comment alone isn’t enough to determine if it was submitted by a real person.

The AG’s office thus examined comment text along with other factors, such as whether names matched lists of stolen identities from known data breaches. Schneiderman’s office also told Ars that it looked into whether or not the submission of comments was in alphabetical order, one after another, in short time periods. In general, analysis of formatting and metadata played a role in the analysis.

Although Schneiderman’s office isn’t saying it, an analysis at Wired magazine suggests the fake comments tended to be opposed to net neutrality. Big surprise.