Fight for the Future


Letter to the FCC from people whose names and addresses were used to submit fake comments against net neutrality

Posted 10:40 EDT on May 25, 2017

May 25, 2017
The Honorable Ajit Pai
Chairman
Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20554 

Dr. David A. Bray
Chief Information Officer
Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20554

CC Members of U.S. Congress

Dear Chairman Pai,

Our names and personal information were used to file comments we did not make to the Federal Communications Commission.

We are disturbed by reports that indicate you have no plans [1] to remove these fraudulent comments from the public docket. Whoever is behind this stole our names and addresses, publicly exposed our private information without our permission, and used our identities to file a political statement we did not sign onto. Hundreds of thousands of other Americans may have been victimized too. 

We call on you, the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, to take the following actions:

  • Notify all who have been impacted by this attack
  • Remove all of the fraudulent comments, including the ones made in our names, from the public docket immediately
  • Publicly disclose any information the FCC may have about the group or person behind the 450,000+ fake comments
  • Call for an investigation by the appropriate authorities into possible violations of 18 U.S.C. § 1001 (“making false statements”) and other relevant laws.

 As chairman of the FCC, an independent federal agency, it is your responsibility to maintain public trust, especially while your agency is fielding comments on the future of the free and open Internet, an issue that millions of Americans care deeply about.

Based on numerous media reports [2], nearly half a million Americans may have been impacted by whoever impersonated us in a dishonest and deceitful campaign to manufacture false support for your plan to repeal net neutrality protections.

While it may be convenient for you to ignore this, given that it was done in an attempt to support your position, it cannot be the case that the FCC moves forward on such a major public debate without properly investigating this known attack.

All proper authorities must be notified immediately and the FCC must disclose any and all information the agency has pertaining to the organization or person behind these fake comments.

Sincerely, 

Brittany Ainsworth, Huntington Beach, CA
Greg Baynes, View Park, CA,
William Brahams, San Bernardino, CA
Christian Brown, Redondo Beach, CA
John Burr, New York, NY
Angelica Collins, Bear, DE
Megan Conschafter, Buffalo, NY
Ben Currier, Littleton, CO
Norman Daoust, Cambridge, MA
Cynthia Duby, Desert Hot Springs, CA
Aaron Francis, Santa Ana, CA
Michelle Ellett, Benicia, CA
Adam Galatioto, Gainesville, FL
Surbhi Godsay, Nashua, NH
Daniel Hickey, Worcester, MA
Richard O. Johnson, Castro Valley, CA
Samuel Lewis, Oakland, CA
Paulo Llanes, Seattle, WA
Joel Mullaney, Watertown, MA
Shaun O’Brien, Elito, ME
Nicholas Pannuto, Sterling Heights, MI
Daniel Pinkert, New York City, NY
John Ulick, Champaign, IL
Arianna Williams, Philadelphia, PA
Melissa Williams, Dallas, TX
Nicholas Ryan, East Lansing, MI
Adam Stone, Salt Lake City, UT


[1] http://www.vocativ.com/431065/fcc-ajit-pai-net-neutrality-bots/

[2] https://www.theverge.com/2017/5/10/15610744/anti-net-neutrality-fake-comments-identities

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Comcast tries to censor pro-net neutrality website calling for investigation of fake FCC comments potentially funded by cable lobby

Posted 11:06 EDT on May 23, 2017

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, May 23, 2017
Contact: Evan Greer, 978-852-6457, press@fightforthefuture.org

Fight for the Future received a cease and desist order from Comcast’s attorneys for our site Comcastroturf.com. Without net neutrality rules, Comcast could have censored the site outright.

Digital rights group Fight for the Future has received a cease and desist order from Comcast’s lawyers, claiming that Comcastroturf.com - a pro-net neutrality site encouraging Internet users to investigate an astroturfing campaign likely funded by the cable lobby - violates Comcast’s “valuable intellectual property.” The letter threatens legal action if the domain is not transferred to Comcast’s control.

“This is exactly why we need Title II net neutrality protections that ban blocking, throttling, and censorship,” said Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight for the Future, “If Ajit Pai’s plan is enacted, there would be nothing preventing Comcast from simply blocking sites like Comcastroturf.com that are critical of their corporate policies,” she added. “It also makes you wonder what Comcast is so afraid of? Are their lobbying dollars funding the astroturfing effort flooding the FCC with fake comments that we are encouraging Internet users to investigate?”

The legal notice can be viewed here. It claims that Comcastroturf.com violates the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act and infringes on Comcast’s trademarks. Of course, these claims are legally baseless, since the site is clearly a form of First Amendment protected political speech and makes no attempt to impersonate Comcast.

(See the case “Bosley Medical Institute vs. Kremer which held that sites critical of a company’s practices could not be considered trademark infringement.)

Comcastroturf.com encourages Internet users to search the Federal Communication Commission (FCC)’s docket to check if a fake comment was submitted using their name and address to attack Title II based net neutrality protections. It has been widely reported that more than 450,000 of these comments have been submitted to the FCC – and as a result of the site at Comcastroturf.com, Fight for the Future has heard from dozens of people who say that anti-net neutrality comments were submitted using their personal information without their permission. We have connected individuals with Attorneys Generals and have called for the FCC act immediately to investigate this potential fraud.

“Companies like Comcast have a long history of funding shady astroturfing operations like the one we are trying to expose with Comcastroturf.com, and also a long history of engaging in censorship,” said Greer, “this is a perfect example of why we need bright line net neutrality rules that protect our free speech online, and why we can’t just trust Internet Service Providers to behave when they’ve abused their power time and time again.”

Fight for the Future has no intention of taking down Comcastroturf.com, and would be happy to discuss the matter with Comcast in court.

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FCC ignores growing evidence of fraud, moves ahead with plan to slash net neutrality protections

Posted 12:40 EDT on May 18, 2017

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 18, 2017
Contact: Evan Greer, press@fightforthefuture.org, 978-852-6457

New evidence raises even greater suspicion about flood of fraudulent anti-net neutrality comments. Numerous individuals have confirmed that personal information was used to file comments without their permission, data analysis shows likely connection to stolen databases.

Today, the FCC voted to move ahead with its plan to slash net neutrality protections, despite overwhelming public outcry and growing evidence of serious fraud by net neutrality opponents.

Fight for the Future is calling on Internet users, the FCC, and state Attorneys General to investigate this potential case of mass identity fraud. The group has launched a website: Comcastroturf.com, where Internet users can check if their personal information was used to file a comment without their permission and contact the authorities to request an investigation.

“The FCC is still refusing to release proof of an alleged DDoS attack that silenced voices in support of Title II net neutrality protections, and now there is significant evidence that a person or organization has been using stolen names and addresses to fraudulently file comments opposing net neutrality,” said Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight for the Future, “If this FCC has any legitimacy, it simply cannot move forward until an investigation has been conducted. We need to know who is doing this, if Ajit Pai or other FCC officials knew that it was happening, and whether any of this illegal activity has been funded by companies like Comcast and Verizon who have a long history of financing astroturf groups. State Attorneys General should immediate investigate whether people in their state were affected by this, and the FCC should immediately release any and all information that it has about who is submitting these fake comments.”

Here’s what we know:

  • Numerous media outlets have reported that more than 450,000 suspicious comments – all containing the same misleading rhetoric, many submitted in alphabetical order and in perfect formatting, opposing net neutrality protections – have been submitted into the FCC’s docket. It seems extremely likely that a significant portion of these comments are completely fake, and were submitted using real people’s names and addresses without their permission.

  • Journalists have spoken to many people whose personal information was used to file an anti-net neutrality comment who confirmed that they never filed such a comment. 

  • Various security researchers have noted that a significant portion of the suspicious anti-net neutrality comments use names and addresses found in breached databases including River City Media and Modern Business Solutions. Statistical analysis shows a much greater percentage of the anti-Title II comments use information found in leaked/stolen lists than other comments.

  • Fight for the Future directly interviewed more than a dozen people and confirmed that they had not filed the comments in question, nor had they signed any petitions that could conceivably have used that comment text. Our campaigner knocked on doors in her zipcode in Tampa, FL and spoke in person to several people whose information had been used to file a comment without their permission. We interviewed these people thoroughly and ensured that they understood the issue well enough that they could not have filed a comment and forgotten about it. 

  • The FCC has refused to show evidence for its claim that a DDoS attack took down their site during the exact same time that large numbers of pro net neutrality comments would have been flowing in from John Oliver’s segment on Last Week Tonight. Security experts and even a former senior FCC staffer have disputed their unfounded claims, raising questions about whether the agency is actively trying to silence supporters of net neutrality while knowingly accepting fraudulent comments opposing it. 

  • Fortune has reported that if you remove the suspicious comments, 97% of the remaining comments are in support of Title II based net neutrality protections.
  • In 2014, it was widely reported that a group allied with the cable & telecom lobby, American Commitment, rented space on several email lists oriented towards older conservative voters and sent misleading emails soliciting comments to the FCC opposing net neutrality rules. Given the large number of comments they collected (~1 million) the cost of the list rentals would have been extremely high.
  • It was also reported in Politico in 2014 that the American Commitment letter was submitted to members of Congress using suspicious, out-of-district addresses, including from constituents who didn’t recall sending such a message.
  • The text of the misleading anti-net neutrality comment has been tied to the relatively unknown group Center for Individual Freedom. The group claims that they have been collecting signatures through an online web form, but that form does not appear on their website or social media. It would be extremely unusual, if not impossible, for a letter that is not visible on the web or social media to attract even tens of thousands of signers, much less hundreds of thousands. The only way to accomplish that would be to spend potentially tens of millions of dollars on list rentals and advertising.

Fight for the Future encourages journalists to investigate this situation, and is calling for the FCC to disclose any information it has pertaining to the alleged DDoS incident and the person or organization behind these likely fraudulent comments. Further, we encourage journalists to ask Cable companies like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T whether they are funding this activity, or providing funding for groups that could be engaging in this activity.

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Fight for the Future launches its first A-Team to pass universal health care in New York, nationwide.

Posted 15:47 EDT on May 17, 2017

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, May 17, 2017

Contact: Holmes Wilson, press@fightforthefuture.org, 614-465-6371

First A-Team sets out to secure a ground-breaking victory on universal health care in New York state

Fight for the Future is proud to announce the launch of its first A-Team, a program created to help activists launch special-ops teams for a new style of resistance activism.

Yesterday, the New York Health Act (NYHA), the bill that would bring single-payer healthcare to all New York residents, passed the Assembly. Fight for the Future is supporting NY Health Act Now, a group created with A-Teams funding, that joined the fight in recent months.  They are building support for the Act through the power of the internet - web, social media, and grassroots campaigning. The group—made up of freelance film and media professionals who rely on the Affordable Care Act—met through a slack channel made up of people concerned about the attacks on the ACA following last November’s election. The group decided to get behind the New York Health Act.

The Act would be the first of its kind and expand Medicare for all New York residents. The bill will now move on to the Senate and with only 35 days left in the legislative session, the members of NY Health Act Now are working feverishly to demonstrate overwhelming support for the bill in order to secure a victory.

“Trump seems determined to end Obamacare, so states like New York have millions of people they need to protect,” said Holmes Wilson, co-founder of Fight for the Future, “But the best part is, this is an opportunity to pass something better and cheaper than Obamacare, making it a model for other states to follow, and using Trump’s onslaught to achieve long-overdue change—that’s why we’re so excited about this team.”  

The bill already has widespread support thanks to years of grassroots organizing largely coordinated by the statewide umbrella organization the Campaign for New York Health, which has secured endorsements from hundreds of labor organizations, community groups, faith groups, businesses, and local governments.

“We are honored and excited to get the opportunity to join the incredible people fighting for healthcare reform in New York. With A-Team support, we can focus our energy on bringing coverage to all New York residents. We are New York. We’re progressive, we’re caring, and we have a higher GDP than Australia. We can lead the way on healthcare,” said Alexandra Rivera (Brooklyn, NY), co-founder of NY Health Act Now. Australia already has universal, single-payer healthcare.

Fight for the Future was instrumental in the massive grassroots campaign that successfully pushed the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to enact the strongest net neutrality protections in US. history last year. They built the page BattleForTheNet.com, which was responsible for more than ¼ of all the net neutrality comments received by the FCC during its feedback process.

Fight for the Future is best known for their role in the massive online protests against SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act, and continues to organize many of the largest protests in the history of the Internet. Learn more at FightFortheFuture.org

NY Health Act Now started as a group of film, media, and communication professionals who rely heavily on the Affordable Care Act and were concerned about the attacks on it following last November’s election. They partner with progressive organizations, public health groups, physicians groups and others to provide media content and communication strategy to bolster their efforts. To date, they have launched passnyhealth.com, launched DearCuomo.com to write letters encouraging Gov. Cuomo to come out in support of the bill, and created tools for canvassers and local organizers to engage with businesses owners.

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The FCC cannot move forward until it investigates flood of fake anti-net neutrality comments using stolen names and addresses

Posted 12:28 EDT on May 17, 2017

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 17, 2017
Contact: Evan Greer, press@fightforthefuture.org, 978-852-6457

Numerous individuals have confirmed that personal information was used to file comments without their permission, data analysis shows likely connection to stolen databases. Fight for the Future demands answers.

Amid numerous media reports about suspicious anti-net neutrality comments that have been submitted into the FCC docket, digital rights group Fight for the Future is calling on Internet users, the FCC, and state Attorneys General to investigate this potential case of mass identity fraud. The group has launched a website: Comcastroturf.com, where Internet users can check if their personal information was used to file a comment without their permission and contact the authorities to request an investigation.

“The FCC is still refusing to release proof of an alleged DDoS attack that silenced voices in support of Title II net neutrality protections, and now there is significant evidence that a person or organization has been using stolen names and addresses to fraudulently file comments opposing net neutrality,” said Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight for the Future, “If this FCC has any legitimacy, it simply cannot move forward until an investigation has been conducted. We need to know who is doing this, if Ajit Pai or other FCC officials knew that it was happening, and whether any of this illegal activity has been funded by companies like Comcast and Verizon who have a long history of financing astroturf groups. State Attorneys General should immediate investigate whether people in their state were affected by this, and the FCC should immediately release any and all information that it has about who is submitting these fake comments.”

Here’s what we know:

  • Numerous media outlets have reported that more than 450,000 suspicious comments – all containing the same misleading rhetoric, many submitted in alphabetical order and in perfect formatting, opposing net neutrality protections – have been submitted into the FCC’s docket. It seems extremely likely that a significant portion of these comments are completely fake, and were submitted using real people’s names and addresses without their permission.

  • Journalists have spoken to many people whose personal information was used to file an anti-net neutrality comment who confirmed that they never filed such a comment. 

  • Various security researchers have noted that a significant portion of the suspicious anti-net neutrality comments use names and addresses found in breached databases including River City Media and Modern Business Solutions. Statistical analysis shows a much greater percentage of the anti-Title II comments use information found in leaked/stolen lists than other comments.

  • Fight for the Future directly interviewed more than a dozen people and confirmed that they had not filed the comments in question, nor had they signed any petitions that could conceivably have used that comment text. Our campaigner knocked on doors in her zipcode in Tampa, FL and spoke in person to several people whose information had been used to file a comment without their permission. We interviewed these people thoroughly and ensured that they understood the issue well enough that they could not have filed a comment and forgotten about it. 

  • The FCC has refused to show evidence for its claim that a DDoS attack took down their site during the exact same time that large numbers of pro net neutrality comments would have been flowing in from John Oliver’s segment on Last Week Tonight. Security experts and even a former senior FCC staffer have disputed their unfounded claims, raising questions about whether the agency is actively trying to silence supporters of net neutrality while knowingly accepting fraudulent comments opposing it. 

  • Fortune has reported that if you remove the suspicious comments, 97% of the remaining comments are in support of Title II based net neutrality protections.
  • In 2014, it was widely reported that a group allied with the cable & telecom lobby, American Commitment, rented space on several email lists oriented towards older conservative voters and sent misleading emails soliciting comments to the FCC opposing net neutrality rules. Given the large number of comments they collected (~1 million) the cost of the list rentals would have been extremely high.
  • It was also reported in Politico in 2014 that the American Commitment letter was submitted to members of Congress using suspicious, out-of-district addresses, including from constituents who didn’t recall sending such a message.
  • The text of the misleading anti-net neutrality comment has been tied to the relatively unknown group Center for Individual Freedom. The group claims that they have been collecting signatures through an online web form, but that form does not appear on their website or social media. It would be extremely unusual, if not impossible, for a letter that is not visible on the web or social media to attract even tens of thousands of signers, much less hundreds of thousands. The only way to accomplish that would be to spend potentially tens of millions of dollars on list rentals and advertising.

Fight for the Future encourages journalists to investigate this situation, and is calling for the FCC to disclose any information it has pertaining to the alleged DDoS incident and the person or organization behind these likely fraudulent comments. Further, we encourage journalists to ask Cable companies like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T whether they are funding this activity, or providing funding for groups that could be engaging in this activity.

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