The National Legal and Policy Center has fired the latest shot in the battle over net neutrality comments filed with the FCC, saying that if its analysis is correct, it will ask Congress to investigate.
Most of the pushback has come from Title II fans saying the other side is flooding the docket with fake comments, but NLPC says that it has found evidence of "massive deception" on the pro-Title II contingent and their own flood of questionable input.
While it says it plans to have a "professional data forensics expert" vet the comments, NLPC has concluded based on its own analysis that for up to 20% of all the pro-net neutrality comments filed so far, either the email address and name doesn't match or the same email address was used to email multiple, sometimes thousands, comments, including addresses "culled from spammer and hacker databases" and generated by a fake email address site.
"Gaming a regulatory rulemaking in this way is highly deceptive and completely undermines the integrity of the public comment process," said NLPC president Peter Flaherty. "More troubling, the potential privacy breach of knowingly using other people's email addresses without their permission to submit comments would be unprecedented," Flaherty continued.
"If our independent forensics analysis confirms that the deception is as extensive as the initial analysis indicates, we will submit our report to Congress and urge them to conduct a full and thorough investigation," Flaherty said.
FCC chairman Ajit Pai has signaled bogus comments are the price of an open process. "[T]here's obviously a tension between having open process where it's easy to comment and preventing questionable comments from being filed, and generally speaking, this agency has erred on the side of openness, we want to encourage people to participate in as easy an accessible a way as possible," the chairman said following the May FCC public meeting.
There are currently north of 2.9 million comments in the Restoring Internet Freedom docket, which is what the FCC is labeling Pai's proposal to roll back Title II classification of ISPs and the "general conduct standard" and rethink the prohibitions on blocking, throttling and paid prioritization and other elements of the FCC's 2015 Open Internet order.