Roger DeGennaro

@nycroger

FCC Chair Quakes Before the Terrible Power of … Cher?

FCC Chair Ajit Pai took aim and fired at Cher at a forum held by conservative R Street Institute and the Lincoln Network on November 28. But there are scarier developments in this battle.

Cher, for example, has tweeted that the Internet “Will Include LESS AMERICANS NOT MORE” if my proposal is adopted. But the opposite is true. The digital divide is all too real. Too many rural and low-income Americans are still unable to get high-speed Internet access. But heavy-handed Title II regulations just make the problem worse! They reduce investment in broadband networks, especially in rural and low-income areas. By turning back time, so to speak, and returning Internet regulation to the pre-2015 era, we will expand broadband networks and bring high-speed Internet access to more Americans, not fewer.

Turn back time? Hysterical. So he fumed on, all because Cher, a national treasure who does not hold public office, expressed her personal opinion to a public official via Twitter:

But why attack her and others in a speech? The answer is simple: fear. Again we have a case of distraction and deflection. Cher is preventing farmers across America from getting broadband — or similar hogwash. Chairman Pai also criticized Twitter for “a double standard when it comes to suspending or de-verifying conservative users’ accounts as opposed to those of liberal users.”

We know what public opinion is about net neutrality. People like it. But why the fear? Some darker forces seem to be at work. The Pew Research Center took a look at public comments to the FCC from April 27 to Aug. 30 and found some suspicious items.

  • 57% of the comments came from duped or temporary email addresses
  • of roughly 22 million comments, 94% were also dupes, sometimes hundreds of thousands of them
  • seven of those copies make up 38% of the total
  • about 17,000 of the opinions were written by someone going by the name of “Net Neutrality”

The Pew Center kids us not. Perhaps Net is short for Annette. But actual names showed up as well, many of them “borrowed” from unwitting real people. New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has been sounding the alarm, and getting no answers from the commission:

My office analyzed the fake comments and found that tens of thousands of New Yorkers may have had their identities misused in this way. (Indeed, analysis showed that, in all, hundreds of thousands of Americans likely were victimized in the same way, including tens of thousands per state in California, Georgia, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and possibly others.) Impersonation and other misuse of a person’s identity violates New York law, so my office launched an investigation.

For months he’s gotten a chilly reception at the FCC in this potential identity theft case. Nor is he the only one. Freelance writer Jason Prechtel FOIA’ed the commission to get data on the mass bogus uploads, got nowhere, and recently filed a lawsuit in the D.C. US District Court.

Could it be … Russia?

Yes and no, at least not the way you might imagine. The Washington Post quotes FCC spokesman Brian Hart as saying that 7.5 million pro-net neutrality opinions came from 45,000 email addresses that were “all generated by a single fake e-mail generator website,” and that Russian email addresses accounted for 400,000 of the pro-neutrality opinions. A broadband-industry-funded study seems to be the source of the last figure, but I don’t find it disputed. Could the pro-neutrality fakes be fabricated to discredit that cause — and muck up the public comment process?

The right does seem to be clutching its pearls and running to the fainting couch. A “small government” group seemed to be working itself into a lather back in July, and pointed toward possible spamming by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The EFF labeled that report, you guessed it, false, and gave reasonable counter-evidence.

Does your brain hurt yet? Maybe that’s the idea.

And so Commissioner Pai slams public-figure citizens, his spokesman and broadband industry mouthpieces are aghast at all the dirty, dirty pro-neutrality spammers, a serious investigation is nowhere in sight…

And the beat goes on.

See my previous article: Will Killing Net Neutrality Crash the Economy?

(Image source)

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