Pallone: FBI Investigating FCC's Net Neutrality Comment Docket

Bots and bogus comments helped fill multi-million comment database
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Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), soon to be chair of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, said he is glad the Department of Justice is looking into the fake net neutrality comments filed in the Restoring Internet Freedom docket.

Pallone, who had requested an investigation, tweeted his support:

A spokesman for FCC Chairman Ajit Pai had no comment at press time.

Pai has conceded there were opportunities for mischief in the docket—which ultimately manifested itself in bogus comments, including ones from a Russian address—but he signaled that was the price of erring on the side of inclusiveness.

Related: New York AG Investigating Fake Net Neutrality Comments

Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.)

In a letter and at a Hill hearing back in March, Pai outlined the docket issues

Related: Pallone 'Disturbed' by FCC Net Neutrality Docket Story

Pai explained in the letter that to enable the filing of bulk comments, the FCC system in 2016 was reconfigured to allow automated submissions, and that while it uses commercially available tools to protect the system from cyber attacks, it "is fundamentally an open, public-facing system, which limits our ability to shut down inappropriate bots accessing [it]."

As to the suggestions that many of the comments were from outside the U.S — a big issue in Washington with the attempted interference of Russians in government processes — Pai said back in March that the FCC does not have policies or procedures for determining the nationalities of commenters or whether the address of the comment is outside the U.S., save for a box to check that is optional.

There is also no limit to the number of comments that can be filed, other than a size limit of 25 MB for each comment, and five files per submission, including attachments.

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