The Wall Street Journal has uncovered thousands of “fraudulent comments on regulatory dockets at federal agencies, some using what appear to be stolen identities posted by computers programmed to pile comments onto the dockets,” James V. Grimaldi and Paul Overberg report for The Wall Street Journal.
“Reports earlier this year of fraudulent comments on the FCC docket prompted the Journal to investigate the phenomenon there and at other federal agencies. After sending surveys to nearly 1 million people — predominantly from the FCC docket — the Journal found a much wider problem than previously reported, including nearly 7,800 people who told the Journal comments posted on federal dockets in their names were fakes,” Grimaldi and Overberg report. “The Journal found instances of fakes that favored antiregulation stances but also comments mirroring consumer-groups’ pro-regulation talking points, posted without permission of people whose names were on them.”
“Such distortions, often unknown even to the agencies involved, cut against an important element of democracy, the public’s ability to participate in federal rule-making. The public-comment process, mandated by law, can influence outcomes of regulations affecting millions,” Grimaldi and Overberg report. “It is a federal felony to knowingly make false, fictitious or fraudulent statements to a U.S. agency.”
“The scope of the fake comments is evident on the FCC website in 818,000 identical postings backing its new internet policy. The agency is expected on Thursday to roll back President Barack Obama’s 2014 rules, which telecommunications companies have called onerous,” Grimaldi and Overberg report. “In a random sample of 2,757 people whose emails were used to post those 818,000 comments, 72% said they had nothing to do with them, according to a survey the Journal conducted with research firm Mercury Analytics… One 369-word comment supporting the Obama-era net-neutrality rules was posted on the FCC website more than 300,000 times… A comment from “Elzor The Blarghmaster” at 9632 Elm Road, Maywood, Ill., was among the 818,000 identical FCC comments backing the Trump policy. No such address could be found, said Jimmie Thompson, a U.S. Postal Service carrier in Maywood.”
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MacDailyNews Take: We live in the era of fraud.
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