You may recall back in December of 2017, the Federal Communications Commission repealed Obama-era net neutrality rules which were put in place to help protect internet users. Then in June of this year, these changes went into effect after much debate and public feedback.
However, the online public feedback system became suspect after research determined that the comment system was being used by nefarious actors who were utilizing the system to create a false appearance of support in favor of killing net neutrality. It is believed that up to 94 percent of the comments submitted were illegitimate.
The New York Times has repeatedly tried to obtain information in regards to possible Russian interference with the FCC’s public comment system. They had requested IP addresses, comments, timestamps, and other data for all comments made on the FCC’s public comment website in regards to the proposed changes to net neutrality rules. The FCC, however, has ‘thrown up a series of roadblocks,’ according to the Times, who was unable to obtain the records.
On Thursday, the New York Times filed a lawsuit against the FCC in the Southern District of New York.
“This is an action under the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”), 5 U.S.C. § 552, to obtain an order for the production of agency records from Defendant Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) in response to a FOIA request properly made by Plaintiffs (collectively, “The Times”),” the lawsuit explains.
“The request at issue in this litigation involves records that will shed light on the extent to which Russian nationals and agents of the Russian government have interfered with the agency notice-and-comment process about a topic of extensive public interest: the government’s decision to abandon “net neutrality.” Release of these records will help broaden the public’s understanding of the scope of Russian interference in the American democratic system.”
The lawsuit alleges, citing an op-ed by FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel in the Washington Post, that the FCC received half a million comments from Russian email addresses. Additionally the suit alleges that some of the email addresses used on the FCC’s comment system were linked to emails cited in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s indictment of “thirteen Russian individuals and three Russian companies”.
It will certainly be interesting to see how all of this unfolds, and if the New York Times does get ahold of information, how it all relates to Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, if at all.