Russia Attacked FCC’s Net Neutrality Debate, Ajit Pai Now Admits

Even as the Federal Communications Commission continues to maintain in court documents that there was no Russian influence or interference in the public debate that led up to the repeal of net neutrality rules late last year, FCC Chair Ajit Pai posted a public statement on the FCC website Wednesday that appears to contradict his agency’s own lawyers.

According to Pai’s statement, it is a “fact” that a “half-million comments submitted from Russian e-mail addresses” ended up on the FCC’s site in the open discussion period ostensibly designed to take a measure of public opinion on the net neutrality repeal. As has reported, an estimated 2 million phony comments somehow ended up submitted to the FCC’s website in the discussion period, many of them falsely using the identities of actual Americans—including two United States senators.

According to a report by CNet, the late Hollywood actress Patty Duke also supposedly submitted a comment to the FCC—even though she died in 2016.

Pai posted his Wednesday statement in response to an ongoing Freedom of Information lawsuit brought by The New York Times and other media organizations, demanding that the FCC release server data that could identify the origin of the fake comments.

But the FCC is fighting the FOIA lawsuit, claiming that to release such data on the commission’s digital operations would leave the FCC vulnerable  to cyber attacks. Pai, who was appointed to lead the FCC by Donald Trump, claimed that the site was hit by a cyber attack that shut it down last year, but as reported, Pai later admitted that no such attack occurred. 

The site’s crash appears to have been caused by fans of comedian John Oliver, who on his HBO Last Week Tonight program called for his viewers to submit pro-net neutrality comments to the FCC. 

In his statement, Pai claimed that the 500,000 comments submitted by Russian accounts were actually arguing in favor of keeping net neutrality rules in place.  

Photo by / Wikimedia Commons 

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