The furor surrounding the net neutrality repeal that took place in December 2017 is continuing to be a strong political punching ground. The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) will investigate claims that millions of comments provided to the Federal Communications Commission in support of the repeal were in fact made by bots impersonating real people.
The investigation comes after weeks of pushback against the FCC’s ruling, with challenges coming from the attorneys general of multiple states, Firefox creator Mozilla, and the Internet Association. Political strength has also been leveraged in this fight, with many congressional Democrats backing net neutrality regulations, which ensured internet access was treated as a utility and could not be exploited by internet providers. Supporters believe such regulation is needed to ensure a free, open internet for everyone.
One of the major issues surrounding the repeal has been the matter of the millions of anti-net neutrality comments that were allegedly made by bots impersonating millions of Americans. This comment system, supposedly used to inform the FCC of the public feeling towards bills, has been accused of being broken by these bot accounts, and forced a representation of the American people’s feelings that was not truly reflective.
This particular challenge to the repeal, launched by an open letter from U.S. Rep. Gregory W. Meeks, D-N.Y., and other representatives, asked the GAO to investigate the impact that these comments had on the process, and to discover the extent of the comment fraud on the FCC’s eventual decision. A reply, published by the Energy Commerce Dem Twitter account, reveals GAO’s acceptance, and the time frame that the investigation is expected to complete within, no less than five months.
NEWS: GAO has accepted 10 Democrats’ request for an investigation of the pervasiveness of fraudulent comments made during a federal rule making process. pic.twitter.com/fVlBIxBAVG
— Energy Commerce Dems (@EnergyCommerce) January 23, 2018
The issue of the fake voters is a particularly thorny issue in the net neutrality battle. One study estimated that removing the fake comments left a comments section that was 98.5 percent against the FCC’s repeal. With the supposedly bot-driven comments, that divide drops to 60 percent against. While this indicates the scale of the possible bot problem, it also shows that the FCC was already willing to go against 60 percent of the comments anyway, raising the question of how much impact the comments truly had on the decision.
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