FCC Proposes Changing Comment System After WSJ Found Thousands of Fakes

The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission proposed an overhaul of the agency’s online comment system after millions of fake comments were posted about a recent FCC rule change.

The FCC’s Ajit Pai said in a letter to two senators that he was proposing “to rebuild and re-engineer” the commission’s electronic comment system “to institute appropriate safeguards against abusive conduct.”

In the July 6 letter to Sens. Pat Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican, and Jeff Merkley, an Oregon Democrat, Mr. Pai said he has asked Congress for permission to shift funds to pay for the comment system overhaul.

Messrs. Toomey and Merkley wrote to Mr. Pai in May to complain that their names had improperly been used to post comments on Mr. Pai’s repeal of Obama-era rules on the internet known as net neutrality.

The senators have opposing positions on the repeal, but they agree that the FCC’s comment system is broken.

“It is troubling that some bad actors submitted comments using false names,” Mr. Pai said in the letter. “Indeed, like you, comments were submitted in my name and my wife’s name that reflect viewpoints we do not hold.”

Mr. Pai’s move comes after The Wall Street Journal uncovered thousands of fraudulent comments on regulatory dockets at five federal agencies, including the FCC—some using what appear to be stolen identities posted by computers programmed to pile comments onto the dockets.

Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA/Shutterstock