3 companies to pay $615,000 in NY attorney general investigation over faked net neutrality comments

May 10, 2023, 11:49 AM

FILE - New York State Attorney General Letitia James participates in the Global Citizen NOW confere...

FILE - New York State Attorney General Letitia James participates in the Global Citizen NOW conference in New York, on April 28, 2023. Three companies that supplied millions of fake public comments using the identities of real people without their consent to support the 2017 repeals of net neutrality rules will collectively pay $615,000 in penalties to New York and other states. The penalties come after a previous investigation by James found the fake comments used the identities of millions of consumers, including thousands of New Yorkers, without their knowledge. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

(AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Three companies accused of falsifying millions of public comments to support the contentious 2017 federal repeal of net neutrality rules have agreed to pay $615,000 in penalties to New York and other states, New York’s attorney general said Wednesday.

The penalties come after an investigation by the New York state Office of the Attorney General found the fake comments used the identities of millions of consumers, including thousands of New Yorkers, without their knowledge.

“No one should have their identity co-opted by manipulative companies and used to falsely promote a private agenda,” said New York Attorney General Letitia James in an announcement Wednesday.

Two of the California-based companies, LCX Digital Media and digital marketing company Lead ID, LLC., were hired by the broadband industry to enroll consumers in a campaign to support repeals to Obama-era net neutrality rules. Instead, they each independently fabricated responses for 1.5 million consumers. The third, marketing company Ifficient Inc., supplied more than 840,000 fake responses.

All three companies provide digital lead-generation services, meaning they collect personal information from consumers and then sell it to third parties for leads to generate business.

Messages left for the three companies were not immediately returned.

The investigation also found the companies worked on other unrelated campaigns to influence public officials and regulatory agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency.

This is the second series of agreements secured by James with companies that supplied fake comments to the Federal Communications Commission. The nation’s largest broadband companies had funded a campaign to generate more than 8.5 million of fake comments submitted to the FCC, with more than half a million fake letters sent to Congress, her office said.

The FCC, a government agency, is supposed to use the comments it receives, from industry and public-industry groups and the public, to shape how it makes its rules.

Net neutrality is the principle that internet providers treat all web traffic equally, without blocking, slowing down, or giving preference to any content. Regulations for net neutrality were designed to prevent internet service providers like Verizon, AT&T, Comcast and Charter from favoring some sites and apps over others.

LCX and its principals will pay $400,000 to New York and $100,000 to the San Diego District Attorney’s Office. Lead ID, LLC., and its principal will pay $30,000 to New York. Colorado-based Ifficient Inc. will pay $63,750 to New York and $21,250 to Colorado.


Maysoon Khan is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Follow Maysoon Khan on Twitter.

National News

Associated Press

AP-NORC poll: About half of US adults approve of Trump’s conviction, but views of him remain stable

NEW YORK (AP) — About half of U.S. adults approve of Donald Trump’s recent felony conviction, according to a poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. The survey shows some potential vulnerabilities, along with some signs of resilience in his support, as Trump tries to become the first American with a felony […]

22 minutes ago

Associated Press

Judge faces inquiry after Illinois attorney was kicked out of court and handcuffed to chair

CHICAGO (AP) — Cook County’s top judge has asked state regulators to review allegations that an attorney was handcuffed to a chair after a judge kicked him out of her courtroom. Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans referred misconduct allegations against Judge Kathy Flanagan to the state Judicial Inquiry Board on Friday, the Chicago Sun-Times […]

53 minutes ago

jerry west...

Tim Reynolds, The Associated Press

Jerry West, a 3-time Hall of Fame selection and the NBA logo, dies at 86

Jerry West, a three-time Basketball Hall of Fame inductee whose silhouette is considered to be the basis of the NBA logo, died Wednesday morning.

1 hour ago

Associated Press

One of several South Dakota baseball players charged in rape case pleads guilty to lesser felony

MITCHELL, S.D. (AP) — One of the several former players on an American Legion baseball team in South Dakota charged last year with rape has pleaded guilty to a lesser felony. The 19-year-old former Mitchell player pleaded guilty to one count of accessory to a felony, according to court documents cited by KELO-TV on Tuesday. […]

1 hour ago

Associated Press

Alabama seeks more nitrogen executions, despite concern over the method

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama is seeking to carry out another nitrogen gas execution, months after the state became the first to put a person to death with the previously untested method. The attorney general’s office on Monday asked the Alabama Supreme Court to authorize an execution date for Carey Dale Grayson, who was convicted […]

14 hours ago

Associated Press

Silicon Valley-backed voter plan for new California city qualifies for November ballot

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A Silicon Valley-backed initiative to build a green city for up to 400,000 people in the San Francisco Bay Area has qualified for the Nov. 5 ballot, elections officials said Tuesday. Solano County’s registrar of voters said in a statement that the office verified a sufficient sampling of signatures. California Forever, […]

15 hours ago

3 companies to pay $615,000 in NY attorney general investigation over faked net neutrality comments