US citizens complain their names were used for FCC robo-comments

Allegedly astroturfed Americans speak out over net neutrality filings

Fourteen Americans (with the help of an advocacy group) are complaining to the FCC that their names were used without permission to file fake comments on the proposed net neutrality overhaul.

A letter [PDF] sent to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and signed by the 14 people claims that their names and addresses were used to post comments in support of the planned Title II elimination for ISPs.

"We are disturbed by reports that indicate you have no plans to remove these fraudulent comments from the public docket," they write.

"Whoever is behind this stole our names and addresses, publicly exposed our private information without our permission, and used our identities to file a political statement we did not sign onto."

The letter does not name any specific company or group as being behind the filings.

A quick check of the names on the letter with the FCC's comment site found that nearly all were indeed used to file form comments. One of the signed names does not appear to be associated with any comments on file right now, while another name was connected with eight identical comments.

The letter is part of a campaign being conducted by digital rights group Fight for the Future to expose what it claims are hundreds of thousands of fake comments posted by or on behalf of telcos who support Ajit Pai's planned overhauls.

The group claims that its site, comcastroturf.com, shows how the fake comments have been made in the name of unsuspecting members of the public – in some cases people who are dead – to create the illusion of widespread public support.

"There is significant evidence that a person or organization has been using stolen names and addresses to fraudulently file comments opposing net neutrality," said Fight for the Future campaign director Evan Greer.

"For the FCC's process to have any legitimacy, they simply cannot move forward until an investigation has been conducted."

Comcast did not have any comment on the letter, but has denied all allegations it was using any customer data to file comments with the FCC.

The letter comes just days after Fight for the Future said someone acting on behalf of Comcast sent them a cease and desist notice alleging trademark infringement. Comcast said that notice was sent by a partner and it did not have any plans to pursue legal action. ®

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