Ross: Net neutrality, fake commenters, and a test case for treason
You can’t believe anything anymore, not even caller ID – we’ve certainly learned that. But a Buzzfeed News investigation shows just how pervasive this kind of deception has become.
Back when the FCC was soliciting comments on the net neutrality issue, people posted 22 million messages on the FCC’s website. And why not? It was a huge issue.
But the FCC also tracked the source of those comments. At Buzzfeed, Jeremy Singer-Vine examined those records and found that almost two million of those public comments came from the same political consultant, who used real email addresses that had been stolen in a data breach.
That political consultant actually attached fake messages pushing his own political agenda to the names and addresses of real people.
“These comments were auto-generated. Think of it as a Mad-Libs project — there were any number of variations,” said Singer-Vine.
The intention was to make it all look like a genuine groundswell of opinions. They even impersonated politicians. And in some cases…
“The comment made in their names flew directly against their party’s platform and even statements they’d made previously,” Singer-Vine described.
In a democracy where it’s crucial that you accurately gauge pubic opinion, what would you call an attack like this on a government website?
Wasn’t the president looking to punish someone for treason recently? I think we may have an excellent test case.