Comcast has purportedly tasked its legal team to shut down an online initiative dedicated to raising awareness about a deluge of seemingly fake anti-net neutrality comments, posted on the website of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) over the last few weeks.
In a troubling announcement on their blog, digital rights group Fight for the Future says it has received a cease and desist order from the Comcast legal division. The letter asks the non-profit organization to transfer the rights to its Comcastroturf.com website over to the telecommunications giant.
Fight for the Future initially set up the Comcastroturf campaign a few weeks back following reports that the FCC website has been flooded by hundreds of thousands identical comments – all condemning the benefits of preserving net neutrality.
What made the comments particularly suspicious is that the names of the senders followed in alphabetical order. The peculiar occurrence was later widely interpreted to have been an attack by a large network of bots, programmed to unleash a barrage of anti-net neutrality comments on the FCC website.
To counteract this suspicious activity, the activist group launched the Comcastroturf portal to give people the opportunity to run a quick test and find out whether their name has been used without their consent to post comments condemning net neutrality.
“Someone has submitted nearly half a million anti-net neutrality comments to the FCC, many of which appear to be completely fake — using stolen names and addresses,” the website stated. “This needs to be investigated and stopped now.”
It appears Comcast has taken an issue with the initiative though.
The company has alleged that the Comcastroturf campaign violates “valuable intellectual property” and trademarks under the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act. But here is the thing: Fight for the Future believes the legal order is protected under the First Amendment, making threats entirely baseless.
“This is exactly why we need Title II net neutrality protections that ban blocking, throttling, and censorship,” commented Fight for the Future campaign director Evan Greer. “If Ajit Pai’s plan is enacted, there would be nothing preventing Comcast from simply blocking sites like Comcastroturf.com that are critical of their corporate policies.”
“Companies like Comcast have a long history of funding shady astroturfing operations like the one we are trying to expose with Comcastroturf.com, and also a long history of engaging in censorship,” she further added.
Despite the alarming legalese, the net neutrality advocates have indicated they have no intention shutting down their campaign and “would be happy to discuss the matter with Comcast in court.”
Meanwhile, you can check whether someone has posed under your name to support the death of net neutrality on Comcastroturf here.