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FCC's net neutrality rulemaking was flooded with millions of fake comments, NY AG report finds

A report from the New York attorney general found broadband companies funded millions of fake comments.

Millions of comments about net neutrality have turned out to be fake, according to a new report. 
Sarah Tew/CNET

Of more than 22 million comments the Federal Communications Commission received while making rules around net neutrality, more than 18 million were fake, according to a report from New York state's attorney general. What's more, millions of those comments were funded by major US broadband companies. 

The report, out Thursday, outlines the "fraud that dogged that rulemaking process" in 2017, when the FCC was looking at rolling back Obama-era rules intended to keep the internet open. The agency did eventually repeal those rules later that year.

"Federal and state agencies rely on public comments to set standards that govern many aspects of our lives, from public health to consumer protection to the environment, and, in this case, the rules that govern how we share and consume content over the internet," the report said. "Public comments can also influence legislators and the laws they enact."

According to the report, the broadband companies, which it does not outright name, funded but did not directly know about the "secret campaign" to "manufacture support" for repealing net neutrality, as it was organized by what the report called lead generators. 

Broadband companies weren't the only ones creating fake comments, though. The report mentioned a 19-year-old college student working on a computer science major who submitted 7.7 million comments in support of net neutrality.