Oregon senator's identity stolen to make comment in favor of repealing Net Neutrality
EUGENE, Ore. - As the Federal Communications Commission weighed whether to repeal Obama-era Net Neutrality rules, an Oregonian filed a comment online in support of scrapping the rules.
"The FCC's Net Neutrality rules were written in the Obama White House by political staff and Tech Industry special interests who overruled the FCC's own experts," Jeff Merkley of Portland wrote. "The FCC's own chief economist Tim Brennan called the rules 'an economics-free zone.' They should be repealed."
This came as a surprise to Merkley, Oregon's junior U.S. Senator and a staunch opponent of repeal.
Merkley identity had been stolen back in May to make the comment.
The senator found out Monday.
"When my team presented me with the tweet, I was like, 'What, there's one in my name?' It's like, oh, you're kidding me!" Merkley told KVAL News on Tuesday.
"It's an affront to our democracy. It's despicable!" Merkley said. "The FCC should have, at a minimum, postponed the vote until all of this was cleared up."
Merkley wasn't alone.
"Before leaving office, the Obama Administration rammed through a massive scheme that gave the federal government broad regulatory control over the internet," wrote a "Barack Obama" of Gregory, Mich. "That misguided policy decision is threatening innovation and hurting broadband investment in one of the largest and most important sectors of the U.S. economy. I support the Federal Communications Commission's decision to roll back Title II and allow for free market principles to guide our digital economy."
Obama - or, more likely, someone posing as the former president - commented repeatedly from his other home bases, like Random Lake, Wisconsin. "The current FCC regulatory scheme known as 'Title II' represents an unprecedented increase in government control over the internet," that "Obama" wrote. "Such over-regulation is hurting our economy and suffocating innovation. I support Chairman Pai's plan to return to a commonsense regulatory framework that allows for the internet to grow without useless government interference. The internet has flourished for decades without the heavy hand of government over-regulation. It?s time we return to what works."
New York's attorney general, Democrat Eric Schneiderman, has been investigating fake public comments submitted to the FCC during the net neutrality comment process.
Schneiderman says his analysis shows 2 million comments stole the identities of real Americans, including dead people and children.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, a Republican, said at a July FCC meeting that the raw number of comments wasn't as important as the substance of issues raised.
The FCC voted 3-2 along party lines to repeal the rules.
Schneiderman and other attorneys general, including Oregon and Washington, have indicated legal action is likely to try and block the repeal.
"I think we have to pursue all avenues here," Merkley said. "We can't let this become practice, that people file comments in the public process and stealing identities to do so.
"It just makes a mockery of our whole public comment effort."