New York AG Fined Companies that Sent False Comments Against Net Neutrality to the FCC
May 16, 2023
In a significant move to combat the spread of fake comments in support of repealing net neutrality, New York State has taken action against companies flooding the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) with fraudulent submissions.
Attorney General Letitia James has secured a total of $615,000 in fines from lead generating firms. Including Ifficient, LCX, and Lead ID. These companies were found guilty of fabricating millions of comments to manipulate the FCC’s proceedings in 2017. Let’s delve deeper into the details of this landmark case.
The Origins of Fake Comments
The broadband industry allegedly solicited assistance from these companies to generate anti-net neutrality feedback through advertisements and giveaways. However, instead of collecting genuine opinions, they resorted to manufacturing fake comments using real identities without authorization.
Attorney General Letitia James revealed that LCX and Lead ID were directly responsible for forging responses for 1.5 million individuals. While Ifficient acted as an intermediary, gathering 840,000 fraudulent comments from other lead generators.
These deceitful tactics are not isolated incidents. As some of the involved companies have previously attempted to influence regulators and politicians through similar astroturfing campaigns.
New York and Other States Impose Fines
As a result of their deceptive practices, LCX and its principals will pay $400,000 to New York and $100,000 to the San Diego District Attorney’s Office. Lead ID and its principal will contribute $30,000 to New York. While Ifficient will pay $63,750 to New York and $21,250 to Colorado. This represents the second set of agreements reached by New York State to hold companies accountable for submitting false comments to the FCC.
Unveiling the Extent of Fraudulent Comments
These fines come in the wake of a 2021 report by the Attorney General. Which exposed that out of the 22 million comments received on the net neutrality repeal, over 18 million were fake. Although concerns were raised at the time, the FCC, under the leadership of Chairman Ajit Pai, resisted attempts to investigate and address this spam. Pai had consistently voiced his opposition to net neutrality and often aligned himself with the interests of telecom companies on crucial matters.
The Limitations of the Penalties
While the fines imposed on these companies are relatively modest, they serve as a reminder that the 2017 decision to repeal net neutrality cannot be undone. Legislative efforts to reinstate net neutrality have faced challenges as well. With a Senate bill on the subject failing to gain traction.
Additionally, California’s neutrality law has limited impact beyond its own borders. However, the actions taken by the Attorney General’s office send a clear message to potential violators. There will be consequences for engaging in fraudulent practices.
Conclusion for the State of New York
New York State’s crackdown on companies involved in flooding the FCC with false comments against net neutrality marks a crucial step in safeguarding the integrity of public feedback processes. While the fines may not reverse the 2017 decision, they serve as a warning to others who may consider resorting to similar deceptive tactics.
As the debate surrounding net neutrality continues, it remains essential to uphold transparency, authenticity, and fairness in shaping policies that impact the future of the internet.