More than 235,000 additional pro-net neutrality comments submitted in recent days to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) docket appear to be coming from non-U.S. filers from foreign countries, according to a new analysis released today by the National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC), a leading government watchdog.
A forensic analysis of comments received between May 24th and May 30th shows that the FCC was flooded with 236,999 comments from domains in France, Russia and Germany. The comments came almost exclusively from three email domains: Yahoo.fr (France), Mail.ru (Russia) and Yahoo.de (Germany). An analysis of hundreds of the comments shows that most appear to come from fake email addresses and fake physical addresses overseas.
Last week, NLPC released a separate analysis of hundreds of thousands of comments that were submitted using fake email addresses and fake physical addresses. This latest analysis of foreign comments flooding the FCC docket matches the same pattern showing that between May 24th and May 30th:
- 92,161 comments were submitted from email addresses ending in the French domain extension Yahoo.fr
- 60,220 comments were submitted from email addresses ending in the Russian domain extension Mail.ru
- 84,618 comments were submitted from email addresses ending in the German domain extension Yahoo.de
As with NLPC’s analysis last week, the foreign comments show text variations with the exact phrasing and language being submitted thousands of times.
The comments also appear to have been generated using fake email addresses, fake international physical addresses, and likely fake names.
“As we noted last week with the discovery of hundreds of thousands of fake comments in the docket, the full extent of compromised pro-net neutrality comments is not known,” said National Legal and Policy Center President Peter Flaherty. “But the gaming of the FCC’s comment system appears to be massive and now encompassing overseas bot campaigns utilizing fake foreign physical and email addresses to submit comments,” Flaherty continued.
“Whoever is behind this massive deception is going to great pains to overwhelm the FCC’s comment system to give the appearance of broad public support,” said Flaherty. “But gaming the system to generate hundreds of thousands of comments from people that aren’t even U.S. citizens and may not even exist is unprecedented. Moreover, to think that comments from foreign citizens could potentially influence a U.S. regulatory proceeding is very troubling,” Flaherty continued.
NLPC plans to submit the data to a professional data forensics expert in the days ahead to provide a more thorough analysis of the comments. The ethics watchdog also urged the FCC to look into the matter to ensure that comments from non-U.S. citizens have no influence in its net neutrality proceeding.