Preliminary Investigation By AG’s Office and Public Reports Indicate FCC Comment Process Was Corrupted By Fake Comments
AG’s Office Encourages New Yorkers to Check if Their Identity Was Misused to Submit Fake Comments in Net Neutrality Debate
Federal Communications Commission—and Dozens of Other Federal Agencies—Rely On Public Comments to Help Determine Sweeping Federal Policies That Affect All New Yorkers
Today, New York Attorney General Schneiderman announced the launch of a new webpage for New Yorkers at ag.ny.gov/fakecomments to check whether their identities were wrongfully used without their consent during the FCC’s public comment process on net neutrality – and to report that misuse to the Attorney General’s office.
“Everyone should be concerned about potential corruption of the federal policy making process,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “The FCC is refusing to help us—or anyone else—conduct a serious investigation, so we’re asking New Yorkers to help us get to the bottom of what happened. New Yorkers deserve a fair and transparent process – not only here where the future of their internet access hangs in the balance, but in every case where the government is considering a policy that affects Americans’ daily lives.”
The webpage launches after Attorney General Schneiderman announced last week, in an open letter to the FCC, that his office has for six months been investigating the submission of enormous numbers of fake comments on the possible repeal of net neutrality rules using real Americans’ identities. An analysis by the Attorney General’s office found that tens of thousands of these comments may have misused the real names and addresses of New Yorkers; in all, hundreds of thousands of Americans likely were victimized in the same way, including tens of thousands per state in California, Georgia, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and possibly others. Impersonation and other misuse of a person’s identity violates New York law.
Before releasing Attorney General Schneiderman’s open letter, the Office of the Attorney General contacted the FCC and its top officials—including Chairman Ajit Pai, three successive acting FCC General Counsels, and the FCC’s Inspector General—at least nine times to request assistance in its investigation. The FCC has been unwilling to provide records related to its public comment system that are necessary to investigate which bad actor or actors are behind the misconduct. This marks a departure from past practice where the FCC has cooperated with the Office of the Attorney General on confidential investigations into practices that had harmed New Yorkers and residents of other states.
New Yorkers can search whether their identities have been misused and assist in Attorney General Schneiderman’s investigation by heading to ag.ny.gov/fakecomments and taking the following steps:
Go to the FCC comment system webpage where you can search for filed comments.
Search for comments that may have misused your identity:
- Locate the “Search Full Text” field at the top of the search form and enter your first and last name (no initial). (The search page does not allow you to use the “Name of Filer” field to search on your first and last name, so make sure you use the “Search Full Text” field.)
- Click the “Search” button at the bottom of the web page.
- If results appear, click on any comment that uses your name, and when the comment appears review the name, the address, and the comment text. (If no results appear, your identity most likely was not misused.)
If any comment you review uses your name in combination with your current or past address without your permission, locate the ID number on the upper left of the comment page and fill out the form at ag.ny.gov/fakecomments.