OPERATION
COMCASTROTURF

Someone has submitted nearly half a million anti-net neutrality comments to the FCC, many of which appear to be completely fake — using stolen names and addresses. This needs to be investigated and stopped now.

What we need you to do

Everyone should check right now to see if this has happened to them. Use this form to search the FCC for comments filed in your name. It requires an exact match. If you find a fake comment filed using your name AND an address that you are currently or formerly associated with, email: [email protected] to let us know.

This search will only yield results if your name was submitted to the FCC alongside a suspicious anti-net neutrality comment. If you have submitted a comment to the FCC in defense of net neutrality, your comment will not show up from this search.

What's happening

The FCC recently set up a "Notice of Proposed Rulemaking" (NPRM) to solicit public comments on their plan to end net neutrality rules. To file a comment in the NPRM, people have to submit their name and address to a public docket. But, since the comment period began, almost half a million identical and perfectly formatted comments have been submitted to the docket, sometimes even in alphabetical order, in what looks like an automated "cut and copy" fashion, using the names and addresses of people from hijacked lists. People’s names and addresses are being publicly listed alongside a political message, without their permission. The comment text is associated with a non-public petition by a relatively unknown group. Journalists and Internet users are helping to identify dozens of people who did not knowingly sign the petition.

What we need

There is still a remote chance that some of the signatures are legitimate, or that individuals were somehow tricked into signing a comment—perhaps thinking it was in favor of net neutrality. We need to learn the extent to which these comments are fake, so we need as many as possible examples of people who are 100% sure they never signed. Once we have that, we can work with state attorney generals to track down the group committing this fraud, and figure out who funds them.

If you believe a fraudulent comment was submitted on your behalf (using your name AND an address that you are currently or formerly associated with), email us: [email protected]

What we know now

We’ve been investigating these suspicious comments since we noticed them, reaching out to the real human beings across the country whose name and home address were used to file public, anti-net neutrality comments. Several people we have communicated with have confirmed that they did not give permission or sign any petition with the language in the comment.

The story first broke publicly when ZDNet confirmed with several people that they did not submit the anti-net neutrality comments in the official and public FCC docket listed using their name and address.

We decided to dig some more, so we knocked on commenter’s doors in Tampa, Florida. Most of the homes were actual people’s old addresses, raising even more flags that these comments are fake. We did manage to find and speak with a few real people. They were shocked to hear that their name and address were publicly listed alongside a political message they did not necessarily understand or agree with.

We asked the Reddit community to help us get to the bottom of all of this, too. Real human beings have been checking the FCC docket to see if their name and address (or a former address) were used to submit these fake comments and, sure enough, people from across the country are reaching out and confirming that their identity was stolen to post these comments.

A media outlet in Denver discovered that more than 7,000 such comments used names and addresses of people in Colorado, many of whom said they had never submitted such a comment when contacted by local reporters.

Conclusion

The more people look, the more we find evidence that nearly half a million anti-net neutrality comments in the official and public FCC docket are using real people’s stolen identities.

There is a long sordid history of the telecom industry funding shady “astroturf” organizations to poison the political process and do their dirty work. In 2014, telecom allies even submitted suspicious emails to Congress. If companies like Comcast are funding this type of illegal activity, their customers and the general public deserve to know about it. If they’re not funding it, they should condemn these fake comments and tell the FCC to disregard them.