EFF Joins Coalition to Plan Network Neutrality Defence Protest

The network neutrality debate has been a hot topic over the last few weeks in the US. Now, effort is underway to turn words into action.

A national day of action is being planned in the US next month. The goal is to defend the hard won provisions of network neutrality. The electronic Frontier Foundation made the announcement recently that they intend to join a broad coalition in a major demonstration next month. From the post:

Net neutrality is under assault once again, with the Federal Communications Commission looking to reverse the 2015 Open Internet Order by stripping away its legal foundations. That’s right: less than two years after the FCC finally adopted a legally viable Open Internet Order, and less than one year after the courts finally upheld real net neutrality protections, the new FCC Chair, Ajit Pai, has put those protections on the chopping block. If he succeeds, broadband service providers will be free to create Internet fast lanes for those who can afford them – meaning slow lanes for anyone who can’t pay to play, like startups offering innovative services, not to mention libraries, schools, and nonprofits. They will also be free to steer you to the content they choose – often without you knowing it.

On July 12, 2017, EFF and hundreds of organizations – including nonprofits, artists, tech companies large and small, libraries, and even ISPs – will be joining together to take action to defend the open Internet. Details to follow, but the goal is simple. Let’s send a strong message to the FCC and Congress: Don’t Mess With the Internet.

The Internet was built on net neutrality principles, and we can’t abandon them now by allowing broadband service providers to become Internet gatekeepers. When you pay for access to the Internet, that’s what you should get: the whole Internet, not just the version your service provider wants to give you.

The day of action is being organized by Battle For the Net who is currently asking people all across the Internet to join in on the fight.

Network neutrality has already become a major issue in the US. Last month, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) solicited comments on the move to dismantle network neutrality. The response was so overwhelming to stop this from happening, the website crashed. Facing a bruised ego, the FCC defended the downtime by claiming that a DDOS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack specifically targeted the comment section of the site. It was an explanation that drew skepticism from many.

Accusations of Fraud

Regardless, the EFF is one of many organizations that created tools to deliver comments to the FCC. Their tool, DearFCC, was recently the subject of an attack by anti-network neutrality organizations. The National Legal and Policy Centre (NLPC) blasted the EFF by saying that pro-network neutrality comments were little more than a fraudulent campaign. From the eyebrow raising remarks:

“The full breadth of the fake comments at this point is not known,” said National Legal and Policy Center President Peter Flaherty. “But based on an initial forensic analysis, we believe it is massive. Indeed, based on our initial read, almost one fifth (465,322) of all pro-net neutrality comments submitted into the docket appear to have come from email addresses that have made multiple submissions, sometimes with duplicates in the thousands. At least 100,000 more comments from an Electronic Frontier Foundation Net Neutrality comment campaign appear to have been generated using both fake email and fake physical addresses and perhaps even fake names.”

One of the more troubling aspects of the deception are comments that are being submitted from thousands of filers using what appear to be other people’s private email addresses. Based on NLPC’s analysis, the email addresses appear in many cases to have either been culled from spam and hacker databases available on the open web, or from other publicly available files found on the open web such as PDF files – some not even in the U.S. In one case analyzed, an email address that appears to have been pulled from an Islamic hacker database on the public web was associated with seven different individuals submitting comments.

“For groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation that claim to champion consumers’ online privacy, it would be an unprecedented privacy breach if they knowingly culled other people’s email addresses from spam databases and without their consent falsely submitted comments into the docket,” Flaherty continued. “At this point, the full extent of the problem is unclear, but it definitely deserves further investigation.”

In response, the EFF blasted the report saying that the report is false. From the response:

NLPC’s report is false. Not one name, email address, or email domain cited in the report matches to any of the comments that came through EFF’s comment tool.

Unfortunately, NLPC didn’t reach out to us before publishing its report. If they had, we would have been able to share our evidence with them and they could have avoided publishing a flawed report.

Before we explain how we know that NLPC’s accusations are false, we want to say a few words about our DearFCC tool. The FCC proposal to toss net neutrality guidelines would open the door to ISPs creating fast lanes for some content and slow lanes for others. It would leave consumers at the mercy of throttling and rob them of the meaningful access guarantees and privacy protections we fought for and won two years ago. DearFCC was created to provide consumers like you a tool for making your voices heard. Your Internet rights are at stake, and you deserve to be heard. We take very seriously claims of fake comments, and our analysis shows that none of the supposedly fake comments in the NLPC report were submitted through DearFCC.

So how do we know NLPC’s report is wrong? For one thing, we counted the number of comments people have submitted to the FCC through our system. That number is nowhere near the 100,000 comments NLPC said we filed.

Further, just before the sunshine period—when the FCC stopped accepting comments—we started storing copies of comments submitted through our system, because we weren’t sure how the FCC would treat comments submitted during that period. This week, we searched through all of the stored comments for the names and email address domains listed in NLPC’s report, and didn’t find a single match.

Finally, the text that NLPC found in the 100,000 comments in question isn’t identical to the text our system uses.

Based on our knowledge of the EFF, we know that the organization has an impressive track record for defending online freedom. They’ve fought against bad notice and takedowns, bogus patent submissions, warrantless wiretapping, overly excessive copyright law proposes, broadcast flags, DRM, and a whole lot more. Ever since I started writing news as far back as 2005, the organization has always been one to look up to. In fact, my debut article covered the activities of the EFF. So, the accusations of forgery, fraud, and breach of privacy simply doesn’t ring true at all as far as I’m concerned.

Based on the response of the EFF, I find no reason to believe anything has ever changed. Reading the NLPC’s remarks, it has an air of political desperation. It’s like opponents know that they are going to lose the court of public opinion and are just slinging mud, hoping something will stick.

Whether or not you agree with that sentiment, it’s very difficult to say that this isn’t a highly passionate debate. As the debate will no doubt further heat up, one can only expect things to get even nastier in the days and weeks ahead.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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