28 Senators have signed a letter to FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai requesting he delay the vote on net neutrality on the grounds of fake and fraudulent comments.
Led by Margaret Hassan, a Democratic Senator representing New Hampshire, the politicians are arguing that due to the claim bots may have interfered with the public consultation process, and the FCC may be choosing to ignore 50,000 comments, it cannot claim to have taken public consideration into account.
“A free and open internet is vital to ensuring a level playing field online, and we believe your proposed action may be based on an incomplete understanding of the public record in this proceeding” said Hassan.
“In fact, there is good reason to believe that the record may be replete with fake or fraudulent comments, suggesting your proposal is fundamentally flawed.”
It has been a bitter battle between the two partisan political parties so far, but to be fair to the Democrats, they do have a point. With such claims about bots populating message boards with fake comments, you cannot guarantee with 100% confidence what the mood of the population is with regard to net neutrality.
The Pew Research Center recently looked into a good proportion of the votes, finding that while a lot were genuine, unique comments, more than half came from temporary or duplicate email addresses. This would suggest these comments are slightly suspect, but not necessarily fake, though there were also several occasions were thousands of comments were logged at exactly the same time. There is a miniscule chance this is coincidence, though we would not back that horse.
Hassan has also pointed towards the work of New York Attorney General Eric Schniederman, who has spent time investigating potential fraudulent comments. Schniederman has said to have found ‘hundreds of thousands’ of comments have impersonated New Yorkers, which is a violation of state law.
Having not be been able to convince Republicans to uphold the rules in the political arena, Hassan seems to be taken a lesson from the internet giants; use PR to create a monster which doesn’t care about the people of America. Twitter and a few other tech companies did it last week, where the letter suggested Pai’s actions were going to destroy the American dream of making money as an entrepreneur, and Hassan seems to be taking a similar spin approach.
The suggestion here is Pai does not care what the American people think. He did a public consultation, which was flawed, and is going ahead anyway. Hassan is suggesting he is not aware of what the mood of the voters is, and that he does not know how the American people feel about net neutrality. It’s a clever move from Hassan, as she is putting the idea in the minds of normal people that Pai is doing this for Pai, not the man on the street.
What we might find out is how much Pai believes in his net neutrality ambitions before too long. If the Democrats and the internet giants create too much of a PR storm, Pai would have to choose between maintaining a positive image in the eyes of Americans, and his beliefs in how the internet should be governed. What matters more; ambition or values?