In a new report, New York Attorney General Letitia James found that of the more than 22 million public comments the Federal Communications Commission received in 2017 regarding the repeal of net neutrality protections, a whopping 18 million were fake. Millions of those comments, the report says, were funded by the broadband industry.
“The OAG found that millions of fake comments were submitted through a secret campaign, funded by the country’s largest broadband companies, to manufacture support for the repeal of existing net neutrality rules using lead generators,” the report says. “And millions more were submitted by a 19- year old college student using made-up identities.”
The investigators behind the report found that nearly 80% of the comments funded by the broadband industry were collected by lead generation companies that offered consumers various rewards in exchange for their information. “Marketing offers varied widely, and included everything from discounted children’s movies to free trials of male enhancement products,” the report reads. The broadband industry would then run additional solicitations alongside those promotions, asking consumers to join the anti-net neutrality campaign, according to the report.
But the lead generation companies did not always run those solicitations, the report says. “Instead, they copied names and addresses they had purchased or collected months or years earlier through unrelated lead generation efforts, and passed it off as information submitted by consumers who had agreed to join the broadband industry’s campaign,” it reads.
One lead generator went so far as to use information obtained through a data breach to submit fake comments.