Friday, January 26, 2018

OpenStack 01/26/2018 (p.m.)

  • Tags: net-neutrality, FCC-rulemaking, comments, fraud, criminal-investigation

    • An analysis of public comments on the FCC's plan to repeal net neutrality rules found that 2 million of them were filed using stolen identities. That's according to New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

      "Millions of fake comments have corrupted the FCC public process—including two million that stole the identities of real people, a crime under New York law," Schneiderman said in an announcement today. "Yet the FCC is moving full steam ahead with a vote based on this corrupted process, while refusing to cooperate with an investigation."

    • Some comments were submitted under the names of dead people.

      "My LATE husband's name was fraudulently used after a valiant battle with cancer," one person told the AG's office. "This unlawful act adds to my pain that someone would violate his good name."

      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.

      The number of comments believed to be fake has grown as the A.G.'s investigation continues, and it isn't done yet. Schneiderman's office is still analyzing the public comments. We asked Schneiderman's office how many of the fake comments supported net neutrality rules, and how many opposed them, but were told that the information was not available.

      While fake comments used names and addresses of people from across the nation, more than "100,000 comments per state" came "from New York, Florida, Texas, and California," Schneiderman's announcement said.

  • Tags: net-neutrality, FCC-rulemaking, comments, fraud, GAO, investigations

    • The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) will investigate the use of impersonation in public comments on the Federal Communications Commission's net neutrality repeal.

      Congressional Democrats requested the investigation last month, and the GAO has granted the request.

      While the investigation request was spurred by widespread fraud in the FCC's net neutrality repeal docket, Democrats asked the GAO to also "examine whether this shady practice extends to other agency rulemaking processes." The GAO will do just that, having told Democrats in a letter that it will "review the extent and pervasiveness of fraud and the misuse of American identities during federal rulemaking processes."

    • The GAO provides independent, nonpartisan audits and investigations for Congress.

      The GAO previously agreed to investigate DDoS attacks that allegedly targeted the FCC comment system, also in response to a request by Democratic lawmakers. The Democrats charged that Chairman Ajit Pai's FCC did not provide enough evidence that the attacks actually happened, and they asked the GAO to find out what evidence the FCC used to make its determination. Democrats also asked the GAO to examine whether the FCC is prepared to prevent future attacks.

      The DDoS investigation should happen sooner than the new one on comment fraud because the GAO accepted that request in October.

    • The FCC's net neutrality repeal received more than 22 million comments, but millions were apparently submitted by bots and falsely attributed to real Americans (including some dead ones) who didn't actually submit comments. Various analyses confirmed the widespread spam and fraud; one analysis found that 98.5 percent of unique comments opposed the repeal plan.
    • The FCC's comment system makes no attempt to verify submitters' identities, and allows bulk uploads so that groups collecting signatures for letters and petitions can get them on the docket easily. It was like that even before Pai took over as chair, but the fraud became far more pervasive in the proceeding that led to the repeal of net neutrality rules. Pai's FCC did not remove any fraudulent comments from the record.

      Democratic FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel called for a delay in the net neutrality repeal vote because of the fraud, but the Republican majority pushed the vote through as scheduled last month.

      New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has been investigating the comment fraud and says the FCC has stonewalled the investigation by refusing to provide evidence. Schneiderman is also leading a lawsuit to reverse the FCC's net neutrality repeal, and the comment fraud could play a role in the case.

      "We understand that the FCC's rulemaking process requires it to address all comments it receives, regardless of who submits them," Congressional Democrats said in their letter requesting a GAO investigation. "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."


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