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FCC ordered to release server logs containing IP addresses of net neutrality commenters

Reporters want to find out how many fake comments were filed with the agency ahead of its net neutrality vote

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The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has been ordered by a federal judge to turn over server logs associated with fake net neutrality comments to a pair of New York Times reporters.

The logs will contain the IP addresses linked to the millions of public comments supporting the repeal of net neutrality that were sent to the agency in the run up to the December 2017 net neutrality vote. 

New York Times reporters sued the FCC under the Freedom of Information Act after it initially refused to allow them to view the records, Gizmodo reports.

The agency previously argued that handing over the records containing IP addresses would represent an “unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.” However, Judge Lorna Schofield countered that the FCC didn’t specify how releasing the data would harm anyone.

Schofield ordered the agency to release the records, stating that the filing of fake comments poses a threat to the entire public comment system. The “notice-and-comment process has failed if there are more fraudulent comments than real ones,” Schofield said.

Time to ‘come clean’

In a tweet, Democratic FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said it’s time for the agency to “come clean” about the fake comments. 

“Remember when the FCC tried to cover up fraud & fake comments in its #netneutrality proceeding? Journalists wanted to get to the bottom of this mess. The FCC told them go away. But a court just told the FCC to stop hiding from the press. So it’s time for the agency to come clean,” Rosenworcel stated. 

The release of the records is expected to shed light on the scope of the fake commenting and help investigators find out which groups may have been involved. 

Research carried out in 2018 suggested that the “vast majority” of real comments filed with the FCC ahead of the net neutrality vote were in favor of keeping net neutrality protections. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai insisted that there was Russian interference during the public commenting period. 

The FCC hasn’t commented on the judge’s order. 

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