TR Daily Merkley, Toomey Urge Pai to Address Fake Comments
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Monday, May 21, 2018

Merkley, Toomey Urge Pai to Address Fake Comments

Sens. Jeff Merkley (D., Ore.) and Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) today issued a bipartisan call to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai “to identify and address fraudulent behavior in the rulemaking process” that led to “the identities of as many as two million Americans [being] stolen and used to file fake comments” in the Commission’s restoring Internet freedom (RIF) proceeding.

“We need to prevent the deliberate misuse of Americans’ personal information and ensure that the FCC is working to protect against current and future vulnerabilities in its system,” the two senators said. They noted that comments were falsely attributed to each of them “to express viewpoints we do not hold.”

They suggested that the Commission consider using “a CAPTCHA, or Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart, [to] ensure that a human, not a machine, is using a computer to submit comments.”

“We encourage the FCC to determine who facilitated these fake comments. While we understand and agree with the need to protect individuals’ privacy, we request that the FCC share with the public the total number of fake comments that were filed,” they said.

They asked whether the FCC is working with the Department of Justice “to identify those who submitted fake comments”; whether it is “working with state attorneys general to determine whether state crimes were broken when these identities were stolen”; what measures it is taking “to ensure this does not happen in the future”; how it can “track down who misused the identities of two million Americans”; whether it can “determine how many of the fake comments on record were submitted by bots, a software application that runs automated tasks (scripts) over the Internet”; whether it has “considered using a CAPTCHA, or other security technology, to prevent fraudulent machine input”; and whether it is “aware of any foreign government submitting fake comments and for what purpose.” —Lynn Stanton, [email protected]

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