Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is investigating what he calls a “massive scheme” involving thousands of alleged fake public comments submitted to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on the potential changes to current net neutrality rules. In an open letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, Schneiderman asserts that the FCC hasn’t provided him with “crucial” information relating to the official probe.
As reported by The Hill, Schneiderman posted a Tweet stating the New York AG’s office, over the past six months, has been investigating a “massive scheme” to “corrupt the FCC’s comment process on net neutrality by impersonating 100,000s of real Americans.”
In the open letter to Pai, a link to which was included in the tweet, Schneiderman wrote that the FCC process, which was “employed to consider potentially sweeping alternations to current net neutrality rules,” was “corrupted by the fraudulent use of Americans’ identities.”
Schneiderman continued by asserting that “the FCC has been unwilling to assist my office in our efforts to investigate this unlawful activity.”
The open letter was released after Pai made an announcement on Tuesday that the FCC vote regarding a roll back the Obama-era mandates that require internet service providers to handle all internet traffic equally would occur in December, rules that Pai has referred to as “heavy-handy, utility-style” regulations.
Pai has already released details regarding his plan to repeal the rules.
In his letter, Schneiderman went on to say, “Specifically, for six months my office has been investigating who perpetrated a massive scheme to corrupt the FCC’s notice and comment process through the misuse of enormous numbers of real New Yorkers’ and other Americans’ identities.”
He continues, “Such conduct likely violates state law – yet the FCC has refused multiple requests for crucial evidence in its sole possession that is vital to permit that law enforcement investigation to proceed.”
Schneiderman states that his office determined tens of thousands of New York residents may have had their identities misused and that his office made a request in June 2017 for information pertaining to the FCC’s public comment system. After that, Schneiderman claims similar requests were made at least nine times over the following five months, and that he has requested assistance from multiple FCC officials regarding the matter.
“Yet we have received no substantive response to our investigative requests,” Schneiderman added.
“We all have a powerful reason to hold accountable those who would steal Americans’ identities and assault the public’s right to be heard in government rulemaking,” the letter continued. “If law enforcement can’t investigate and (where appropriate) prosecute when it happens on this scale, the door is open for it to happen again and again.”
“In an era where foreign governments have indisputably tried to use the internet and social media to influence our elections,” Schneiderman wrote, “federal and state governments should be working together to ensure that malevolent actors cannot subvert our administrative agencies’ decision-making processes.”