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Report: More Than 1 Million Pro-Internet Regulation Comments Came From Foreign Countries Like Russia

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More than 1.3 million comments supporting government regulations over the internet appear to have been submitted by users outside of the U.S., according to a forensic analysis published Monday.

Specifically, several remarks filed to the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) public forum for net neutrality were done so from Germany, Russia and France, the National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC) concluded in its report.

The notion that so many of the responses did not originate from people within America is significant since the issue almost solely affects the country in which the policy debate is currently taking place.

The NLPC also discovered that more than 1 million “pro-net neutrality” comments came from an email address with a “Pornhub.com” extension. While the locations of the commenters were reportedly determined, whether they were automatically sent through something like a robot was not evident.

The NLPC released another similar examination in May that alleged how so many “pro-net neutrality” responses were likely fake, since certain addresses listed under the commenters’ identification details didn’t exist. The conservative organization also says that so many of the comments were phony because the almost exact language used on a left-leaning nonprofit’s template was found in thousands and thousands of highly repetitive, but separate, posts.

“Every time we flip over a rock on these net neutrality comments, there is something amiss,” Peter Flaherty, president of the NLPC, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “We have now done three separate analyses, and all three times we have found a substantial level of fraud. The bottom line is that a substantial percentage of pro-neutrality comments are fake.”

TheDCNF did its own analysis of the FCC’s forum for public comments, and found that hundreds of thousands of posts supporting net neutrality are likely fake. (Fake “anti-net neutrality” comments also made their way on the forum, according to ZDNet).

The latest investigation from the NLPC was in response to the highly publicized net neutrality “day of action” July 12.

Fight for the Future, a liberal group that focuses on activism, boasted throughout and after the day that it was able to help encourage people to make more than 2 million “pro-net neutrality” comments to the FCC. The organization argued that the outpouring of support helps prove that it has the larger public behind its cause.

Net neutrality is a nebulous principle that generally means internet service providers don’t have the right to discriminate against certain forms of traffic, including spam, and cannot offer faster speeds to higher paying customers. For supporters, it means equal treatment for all forms of traffic. For critics, net neutrality is a government takeover of the internet that will prevent companies from investing in faster infrastructure and better services for consumers.

It is important to distinguish that the majority of liberal groups, like Fight for the Future, want the government to categorize the internet as a Title II utility (meaning publicly controlled), which is not the same as net neutrality. Placing the internet under the Title II classification is a mechanism to enforce net neutrality in a comprehensive manner, though many businesses call it cumbersome and restrictive.

While many people are for the concept of net neutrality, it is not clear with which formal mechanism (if any) they want to foster net neutrality. Whether the majority of people believe the best way to accomplish complete net neutrality is a government takeover of the internet, or an unfettered free market with “a light-touch regulatory framework,” is not fully known. The NLPC’s latest analysis further muddles the already complex situation, particularly whether there is actually a blatant, outright support for net neutrality, and especially how people prefer the principle is applied.

“The Net Neutrality Day of Action turned into a Day of Astroturf. And it was not very well disguised,” Flaherty concluded. “If Silicon Valley firms paid to orchestrate this stuff, they got ripped off. The net result is that the public comment process is not going to be taken seriously by anyone, especially the FCC Commissioners.”

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