New York State’s attorney general has accused the Federal Communications Commission of refusing to assist in his efforts to investigate an attack on the agency’s public comment system that used the identities of New Yorkers.
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman revealed the investigation in an open letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai Tuesday, stating that the agency’s system was “corrupted” by culprits who made fake comments using the names and addresses of thousands of people across the country.
The same day that Pai announced a plan to end net neutrality, Schneiderman said his office discovered the FCC's comment system was attacked in May 2017, as it was taking public comment on proposed changes to net neutrality. Schneiderman said his office has reached out to the FCC to aid in the investigation, but has been ignored.
The "conduct likely violates state law — yet the FCC has refused multiple requests for crucial evidence in its sole possession that is vital to permit that law enforcement investigation to proceed," Schneiderman wrote.
The comment system allows the public to weigh in on any proposed rule changes — the FCC was looking at changing net neutrality rules — and under federal law, the agency has to take those comments into consideration.
In May, dozens of victims wrote a letter to the FCC stating that their information was stolen and they were concerned that the agency wasn’t doing anything to address the issue because the fake comments supported the agency’s latest rules on net neutrality.
“While it may be convenient for you to ignore this, given that it was done in an attempt to support your position, it cannot be the case that the FCC moves forward on such a major public debate without properly investigating this known attack,” they said in the letter addressed to Pai and David Bray, the FCC’s Chief Information Officer.
Schneiderman said that many of the fake comments made were meant to invalidate the views of real people on the issue of net neutrality and unlawfully used personal information of real people in their efforts.
The attorney general believes that in the age of foreign governments using the internet to subvert the election process, that federal and state agencies should work together to combat outside influence in the agencies “decision-making processes.”
“This so-called investigation is nothing more than a transparent attempt by a partisan supporter of the Obama Administration’s heavy-handed Internet regulations to gain publicity for himself,” an FCC spokesperson told NBC.
On Tuesday, the FCC officially announced a rollback in Obama-era rules that helped regulate the internet from major telecommunication companies. The decision was met with wide criticism as many feel that it will give telecom companies power to charge users to access certain websites and control internet speeds.
Schneiderman, a supporter of net neutrality, said that the system has to remain open regardless of what side of net neutrality people may fall on.