People whose names were used to spam the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) website with anti-net neutrality comments are demanding an investigation into the identity theft.
In a letter sent Thursday to FCC commissioner Ajit Pai, more than a dozen victims asked for the comments made under their names to be removed from the website—which the commission has yet to do—and warned that hundreds of thousands of other people may have been impacted.
"Whoever is behind this stole our names and addresses, exposed our private information in a public docket without our permission, and used our identities to file a political statement we did not sign onto," the letter states.
The stolen identities included those of recently deceased people, they said, writing:
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We call on you, the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, to take the following actions:
- Notify all who have been impacted by this attack
- Remove all of the fraudulent comments, including the ones made in our names, from the public docket immediately
- Publicly disclose any information the FCC may have about the group or person behind the 450,000+ fake comments
- Call for an investigation by the appropriate authorities into possible violations of 18 U.S.C. § 1001 ("making false statements") and other relevant laws.
"In my nearly 30 years of being an Internet user, I've been extremely judicious about using my real name online. On those rare times when I have chosen to do so, it's been for something I feel strongly about. To see my good name used to present an opinion diametrically opposed to my own view on net neutrality makes me feel sad and violated," one signatory, Joel Mullaney, told Fight for the Future. "Whoever did this violated one of the most basic norms of our democratic society, that each of us have our own voice, and I am eager to know from what source the FCC obtained this falsified affidavit. I have been slandered."
Fight for the Future launched a website last week allowing users to check if their identities were used in the spamming operation. Comcast, which opposes net neutrality protections, threatened to take legal action against the digital rights organization for trademark infringement. But Fight for the Future's website, Comcastroturf.com, returned dozens of verified reports from people around the country.
"There is significant evidence that a person or organization has been using stolen names and addresses to fraudulently file comments opposing net neutrality," Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight for the Future, said Thursday. "For the FCC's process to have any legitimacy, they simply cannot move forward until an investigation has been conducted. We need to know who is doing this."