Watertown’s Joel Mullaney is a software engineer and supporter of keeping Net Neutrality, so he was shocked to find that his name was signed to comments sent to the FCC asking for Net Neutrality regulations to be rolled back.
Mullaney’s was just one of more than 450,000 people who have discovered their identity had been stolen and used to send fake anti-net neutrality comments to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai.
Net neutrality is principle that internet service providers and governments regulating the Internet should treat all data on the internet the same, and not slowing or speeding up data from particular sources, or or charging differentially by user, website or type of application.
FCC officials are considering changing the regulations that the Obama Administration put into place to strengthen net neutrality saying that they have led to a reduction in investment by major service providers. Opponents say the major internet providers, such as Verizon, Comcast and AT&T, will be able to play favorites, and it will likely favor big companies while hurting small ones and start-ups.
Mullaney first heard about the fraudulent comments when he came across a thread on Reddit. He went to a website set up so people can enter their name and see if it had been used in the comments to the FCC.
“I was shocked. There was my name and my address,” Mullaney said. “If I wasn’t looking for it I never would have known.”
(To check if y0ur name was used on the fake comments, click here)
In the past, Mullaney has submitted letters and comments to elected officials he received a letter or message saying something like, “Thank you for sharing your opinion.”
“The FCC never sent any letter,” Mullaney said.
The comments his name is signed to run counter to his true feelings.
“It says how awful President Obama was,” Mullaney said. “I voted for him twice.”
Plus he is a supporter of net neutrality.
“I’m a software engineer,” he said. “What happens if I invent a great app?”
Mullaney joined thousands of others demanding that his name be removed from the comments through a website created for the effort called Comcastroturf.com. The letter reads, in part:
“Whoever is behind this stole our names and addresses, exposed our private information in a public docket without our permission, and used our identities to file a political statement we did not sign onto,” the letter reads. The letter also warns that “hundreds of thousands of other Americans may have been victimized too.” (See the full letter here.)
The effort has caught the attention of members of congress, including Massachusetts’ Sen. Edward Markey, who have asked the FBI to investigate who is behind the fraudulent comments.