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Even former President Barack Obama’s name was forged in anti-Net Neutrality comment, and now lawmakers want to know exactly what happened and why. More and more people are discovering that their names were stolen and used to leave fake comments on the FCC’s website supporting the repeal of net neutrality. Weeks before the FCC voted 3-2 to repeal net neutrality, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman learned that FCC’s comments were somehow corrupted and possibly millions of names left in the comments were actually faked. This became very apparent when “Barack Obama” was discovered to have left a comment calling for the repeal of his own net neutrality rules. You can read the comment here or see it below.
The fake comment claims it was written on May 11, 2017 by Barack Obama, complaining about the unprecedented regulatory power of his own administration. Even though Obama had already left the White House by this time, the comment also leaves “1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW” as his address. The text in the comment is frequently used in the fake messages left on the FCC. It reads: “The unprecedented regulatory power the Obama Administration imposed on the internet is smothering innovation, damaging the American economy and obstructing job creation. I 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. The 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.” Interestingly, the exact same comment was also left under President Donald Trump’s name, supposedly on July 13, 2017.
To find out if your name was stolen and used for a fake FCC comment too, you can either visit Schneiderman’s website here or Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s website here. Next to the blue “search” button, type your full name and press enter. A new window will open at the FCC’s website with the search results. If your name was not used, you’ll see under Filings: “No results after searching/filtering.” If your name was used (or someone who has a name just like yours was used), then a list of results will show up under Filings. Depending on how many results appear, you may just see blank results on the page at first until the search results are populated. If you’re using mobile, there have been some reports that the search window page doesn’t open, so you may need to try the search in another browser window. Here is what the different search results might look like. I tried once using my married name and got zero results (the first photo below), and once using my maiden name, Stephanie Dube, and got two results.
If you see your name under “Filings,” this doesn’t automatically mean that your name was forged. If you left a comment, that will appear on this list. There’s also a chance that the name could just belong to someone else who has the same name as you and legitimately left an FCC comment. Your next step is to click on each result (they aren’t sorted by state or any helpful manner like that.) Check the address next to the name (it will be in the same location where the address is listed for Obama’s and Trump’s comments above.) If the address is your current address or an old address of yours, and you did not leave the comment, then your name was forged. You can also check for family and friends. You’ll want to check for deceased friends and family too, as there have been reports of forged comments for people who died. (In my case, the two results that appeared were for addresses where I’ve never lived, so they were not forgeries for me.)
If you found that your name was forged, what can you do next? First, be sure to take screenshots of the forgery so you can keep a record of it. Then file a complaint form on both Shapiro’s website and Schneiderman’s, just to cover all your bases. Shapiro’s complaint form is on the right side of the page here. Schneiderman’s complaint form is here. Leave a comment below too, letting us know if your name was forged for a comment.
Senator Jeff Merkley just discovered today that his name was forged:
At this point, we don’t know how these fake comments happened. It very well could have been a third party of some sort, using a bot to input fake comments. This is a developing story that will be updated as more information is known.