Attorney General James secured $615,000 from companies that provided false comments to influence FCC’s repeal of net neutrality rules

NEW YORK – New York State Attorney General Letitia James today secured $615,000 from three companies: LCX, ReedID and Efficient. These companies provided millions of bogus public comments to influence the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) process to repeal net neutrality rules in 2017. Don’t block, slow down, or charge companies to prioritize specific content on the internet. An investigation by the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) found that fake comments used the identities of millions of consumers, including thousands of New Yorkers, without their knowledge or consent. . The three companies agreed to pay a total of $615,000 in fines and exploitation, the second in a series of agreements Attorney General James has entered into with companies that provided false comments to her FCC. .

“The public comment opportunity is an opportunity for Americans to voice their opinions on important government policies, and these companies are misusing it for their own selfish ends,” he said. Attorney General James“I cannot let a manipulative company take over my identity and use it to mispromote my personal agenda. We will always fight to ensure that consumer identities are protected and rogue businesses are deterred.”

Today’s agreement is the result of an investigation by the OAG that uncovered widespread fraud and abuse surrounding efforts to undermine the FCC in its 2017 net neutrality rulemaking process. As detailed in an OAG report, in 2017 the country’s largest broadband companies funded covert campaigns that generated millions of comments to the FCC. These comments provided the “cover” for the FCC to repeal its net neutrality rules.

To generate these comments, the broadband industry has taken advantage of commercial lead generators that use advertisements and prizes (such as gift cards and sweepstakes entries) to encourage consumers to participate in campaigns. However, nearly all lead generators hired to enroll consumers in campaigns simply fabricated consumer responses instead. As a result, over 8.5 million bogus comments were submitted to the FCC and over 500,000 bogus letters were sent to Congress, impersonating a real person.

Two of them, LCX and Lead ID, were each involved in enrolling consumers in the campaign. Instead, each created an answer uniquely for his 1.5 million consumers. A third company, Ifficient, acted as a middleman, working with other lead his generators to enroll consumers in campaigns. Ifficient provided her client with over 840,000 bogus responses she received from the lead generators she hired.

An OAG investigation found that fraud perpetrated by various lead generators in net neutrality campaigns also impacted other government procedures. Several of the lead generation companies involved in comment campaigns on net neutrality in the broadband industry also worked on other unrelated campaigns to influence regulators and public officials. In nearly all of these advocacy campaigns, lead generation companies were involved in fraud. As a result, over 1 million bogus comments were generated for other rulemaking proceedings and over 3.5 million bogus digital signatures were generated for federal and state lawmakers and government officials nationwide. rice field.

LCX and Lead ID were responsible for signing many of these bogus comments, letters and petitions. In her four advocacy campaigns in 2017 and 2018, LCX fabricated consumer responses in nearly 900,000 public comments submitted to the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM). bottom. Similarly, in an advocacy campaign from 2017 to 2019, Reid ID He fabricated more than half a million consumer responses. These campaigns targeted various government agencies and officials at the federal and state level.

The agreement announced today requires the three companies and their principals to pay penalties and exploitation. LCX and its principals will pay New York $400,000 in liquidation and malpractice and $100,000 to the San Diego District Attorney’s Office. Lead ID and his principal will pay New York $30,000 as a fine. Ifficient pays her $63,750 penalty and spit in New York, and he pays $21,250 in Colorado.

OAG would like to thank the Attorney General of Colorado and the San Diego District Attorney for their assistance in this matter.

The matter was handled by Senior Enforcement Counsel Jordan Adler and former Assistant Attorney General for the Internet Technologies Office Noah Stein under the supervision of Deputy Director Clark Russell and Director Kim Berger. The Internet Technologies Office is part of the Office of Economic Justice and is overseen by Chief Deputy Attorney General Chris D’Angelo and First Deputy Commissioner Jennifer Levy.

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