The FCC will not disregard anti-Net Neutrality comments left by identity-stealing bots

Originally published at:

But my on-line identity is Joseph Stalin!



ISTR that there was a guy who got his letter to the editor published in the Washington post under the name Iosif Dzhugashvili (Stalin’s birth name) so that might work for you…


What a surprise that this walking industry dildo would think that pseudonymous names are less “real” than easily generated meatspace “real sounding” names. Most Trump voters, given a multiple choice test would circle Ajit Pai as the fake name every time, BTW. Also that a proper sniff test for either legitimate internet input OR government policy should be “sounds legit at a glance” should be grounds for losing your job that sits at the nexus of internet and government. Fuck this clown and the clown car of assholes he rode in with.


From a working perspective, I would have thought that they would have announced that these comments would be disregarded in order to prevent future events like this from occurring. Getting together a list of millions of real names and creating a web spider to send these comments would be a trivial task, depending on security. FCC comments, rather we agree with them or not, should not be a function of who can spend the most to upload comments, nor who can scream the loudest. If they are not disregarding them, then the best thing to do in the future is to spam in this way. If they don’t crack down, they will get millions of comments on both sides that are meaningless and have that much more data to sort through.


Robots are people too, my friend… But I’m sure that they will ignore the robot comments just as hard as they ignore their non-robotic brethren…

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To play devil’s advocate for a minute, I often sign online petitions and one variant is the boilerplate email that’s sent to whoever’s responsible for Bad Thing. Not saying that’s what happened here (and it would be trivial to find out) but if thousands of people legitimately sent identical letters to an online form, should they be considered?

I’m sure there are permanent IT staff at the FCC who pointed out that the many fakes can be identified by their origins in IP blocks from places like Vietnam and Russia and India and the speed of the posts, but Pai just put his fingers in his ears and said “nyah, nyah, can’t hear you!” I’d expect nothing else from him, given a regime that appoints people to departments they actively hate and want to destroy.

That assumption assumes Pai and his ilk think beyond the next fiscal quarter or that their boss can think beyond tonight’s KFC or steak-and-ketchup dinner.


These don’t seem to be typical “form letter” comments. There were tens of thousands posted within seconds of each other, and at least some of the people who left them were unaware that they did so. ZDNet has an article about it.


This sums up my reaction to that news


I can’t believe this guy is such an idiot! Sincerely, John Smith.

I can’t believe this guy is such an idiot! Sincerely, Sue Jones.

I can’t believe this guy is such an idiot! Sincerely, Mary Roberts.


Considering that many people may choose to petition their government anonymously (through a VPN or Tor), do you think that restricting commenting to US IP addresses would be a good solution?

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I don’t and didn’t say that. However, 1000s of nearly identical comments from IP blocks in Vietnam on an FCC comment server would raise the eyebrows of most sysops.

Many organizations on both sides of the aisle in Washington share sample text to use when contacting their elected officials, so repetition of text would generate many false positives.

Do you think that creating a set of heuristics that eliminates astroturf without eliminating legitimate citizen complaints would have been possible? If so, what specific heuristics would you have used? Should unelected IT staff at the FCC be able to determine what constitutes a “valid” submission?

It’s certainly possible enough to identify the most obvious astroturf and spam for further investigation – there are plenty of commercial and FOSS analysis tools that do just that. Spambots-for-hire aren’t exactly subtle in how they work, and there are signatures like IP address, country of origin, frequency, spacing, content, time of submission, etc. that in combination can flag a submission (or, more likely in this case, a group of submissions) as highly probable spam for further investigation. One can do that and still err on the side of caution in terms of allowing individual false-positive outliers that may seem like spam but are in fact legit while clearing out the junk.

No, but as part of their jobs they should be able to determine what is essentially a flood of comment spam and advise appointed* officials about the problem and impact on the servers and their mission. You might as well ask “should @orenwolf at BoingBoing be able to determine what constitutes a ‘valid’ submission?” – clearing out comment spam and advising non-tech management about flare-ups are depressingly regular parts of a Web sysop’s job description.

[* FCC heads like Pai are not elected]


Yes, but Boing Boing is a privately owned website.

The FCC’s comment submission system has vastly different legal requirements, given the constitutional right to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

On the other hand, there is no constitutional requirement the government act on these petitions - or even read them.

To put it simply: applying filters after the comment period to sift through what comments are viewed as valuable is much less likely to run into legal issues than blocking comments from being made.


Is the window for comments closed yet? Just asking for a friend. (A friend with a large database of names and email addresses.)


That doesn’t make the basic anti-spam duties of and analysis tools available to IT staff any different. Government systems still have to be monitored for DDoS attacks, including comment spam.

Those legal requirements still allow for the investigation of false claims and officials disregarding those that are determined to be false after an investigation.

Once again, no-one, including myself or Cory, is claiming that comments should be blocked. Is this not clear?


Yes, but your initial post stated that “IP blocks” could be put in place. Hence my polite series of questions. There’s a big difference between blocking a comment, and filtering it out later in the process.