The New York attorney general’s office is widening an investigation into fraudulent net neutrality comments, saying it estimates that up to 9.5 million comments were submitted using stolen identities.
NY AG Barbara Underwood “subpoenaed more than a dozen telecommunications trade groups, lobbying contractors, and Washington advocacy organizations on Tuesday, seeking to determine whether the groups submitted millions of fraudulent public comments to sway a critical federal decision on Internet regulation,” The New York Times reported yesterday.
The NY AG last year said it found 2 million net neutrality comments filed in people’s names without their knowledge; some comments were submitted under the names of dead people.
That number more than quadrupled as the AG’s office continued its analysis of comments, based in part on a website the office set up to let people search the FCC comments for their names to determine if they’ve been impersonated.
“Underwood said in a statement that her office found up to 9.5 million comments that appear to have been filed using the names and addresses of real people who had no idea they were being cited in the comments,” The Wall Street Journal wrote yesterday.
We asked the AG’s office for a list of all companies that it subpoenaed and a description of the records it is seeking, and we will update this story if we get a reply. The AG is seeking “records and communications,” the Times wrote.
Several of the subpoenaed firms were “contractors and subcontractors in the massive lobbying efforts that helped generate more than 20 million comments on the FCC decision to scale back Internet regulation,” the Journal wrote.
“The New York investigation is one of the first official probes into lobbying firms that promise special interests they can deliver thousands, even millions of people to back their causes under consideration before the government,” the Journal wrote. “The sector is sometimes called ‘AstroTurf lobbying’ for generating artificial grass-roots support.”