Findings cast doubt on 22 million comments submitted to the Federal Communications Commission.

New research has found that the vast majority of the 22 million comments submitted to the FCC over the summer have been against net neutrality, but that most of these ‘against’ comments were written or submitted by ‘bots’.

Research by Gravwell, a data analytics company  claims that a mere  3,863,929 comments appear to have been individually written and were unique. The other 18 and a bit million appeared to be copied, pasted, and resubmitted multiple times, most likely by bots.

Researches claim 80% Of All Net Neutrality Comments Sent By Bot

Mozilla, the company behind FireFox, and their take on the debate

Individuals

People who submitted comments directly to the FCC website were “overwhelming in support of net neutrality regulations”, said Gravwell lead researcher, Corey Thuen. Only 17.4% of the comments were unique. Of this number, around 95 percent of all organic comments favored net neutrality.

Gravwell also said that most comments had been submitted in bulk, were largely identical, and that further research indicated the submissions were the work of bots or automated processes.

Motherboard: a light in the darkness

The Motherboard website, a constant voice of sanity and reason in the age of technology, highlighted one email that has been submitted to the FCC 1,200,000 times word for word right down to the ‘\n” marks peppered throughout. A similar email was sent a reported 1 million times in August alone, as well.

“The unprecedented regulatory power the Obama Administration imposed on the internet is smothering innovation, damaging the American economy and obstructing job creation.\n\nI urge the Federal Communications Commission to end the bureaucratic regulatory overreach of the internet known as Title II and restore the bipartisan light-touch regulatory consensus that enabled the internet to flourish for more than 20 years.\n\nThe plan currently under consideration at the FCC to repeal Obama’s Title II power grab is a positive step forward and will help to promote a truly free and open internet for everyone.\n”

Net neutrality – why you should be concerned

Essentially, if you’re not freaking out about the current US administration’s plans for the internet, you’re not paying attention.

Current Net Neutrality Rules

The rules which have been in place since 2015, forbid Internet service providers from creating paid “fast lanes” or giving special treatment to one website over another. The rule was implemented by the Obama administration in 2015. Proposed changes to these rules, spearheaded by the current chairman of the FCC, could see internet users having to pay more to use certain websites on the web, such as Netflix, or stop you using them entirely; effectively creating a two tier internet for millions of American citizens,  so broadband suppliers can charge extra fees to control what web users see and do online.

The FCC’s current chairman, Ajit Pai, is a Republican ideologue. Pai was appointed in January and has long argued that  that the idea of net neutrality amounts to undue regulation that hurts business. As a Republican, he has the majority of votes on the FCC, and seems set to destroy the current rules late in the summer. “Do we want the government to control the internet? Or do we want to embrace the light-touch approach,” said Pai, in April. Until very recently, Pai worked for Verizon, a company with a vested interest in ending net neutrality.

Bot writers?

Yes. “Seeing a clear difference of opinion between bulk submitted comments vs those that came in via the FCC comment page we’re forced to conclude that either the nature of submission method has some direct correlation with political opinion, or someone is telling lies on the internet,” Thuen wrote.

While Thuen did admit that the research so far conducted was ‘rudimentary,’ and that his results would benefit with more qualified and in-depth research from other academics, the facts are pretty much indisputable:

Of the 22 million comments submitted, only 3,863,929 comments submitted to the FCC are unique, i.e written by individuals. That’s roughly 17%.