FCC Sued For Hiding Possible Russian Meddling With Net Neutrality Vote

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In short: The New York Times launched a lawsuit against the United States Federal Communications Commission, alleging the agency concealed evidence of potential Russian interference with the net neutrality vote, i.e. its process of gauging the public opinion on the thereof. The litigation, initiated last Thursday, consists of five claims, all of which stem from the fact that the FCC repeatedly refused to share details on possible interference when requested to do so under the Freedom of Information Act. The regulator argued it lack the technical capabilities to comply with the request.

Background: The controversial repeal of Title II protections was preceded by a period during which the federal regulator solicited public comments on its Restoring Internet Freedom Act which did away with the 2015 net neutrality rules. Under the terms of FOIA, the NYT asked for records that it claims would have provided more details on any possible interference in the commentary process organized by Russian entities and nationals, whether state-sponsored or not. Many of the comments in support of the repeal posted to the FCC's website were proven as false, having been attributed to people who didn't author them or weren't American nationals in the first place, with many others sharing a similar language pattern that suggests they were automatically posted by bots. Some advocates used the revelation as the basis for calling for the repeal to be postponed or abandoned even before the polarizing act went into force this June, albeit to no avail.

Impact: While the newly filed lawsuit will once again cast doubt over the legitimacy of the 24 million comments on the net neutrality repeal the FCC received earlier this year, it's unlikely to lead to a reversal of the decision. Capitol Hill is presently debating codifying the rules, albeit in a watered-down state that likely still wouldn't prevent paid prioritization, one of the most concerning practices threatening the neutrality of the World Wide Web, according to numerous activists. The most likely scenario in which the FCC reverses its decision on the matter is one wherein the Democrats win back the White House and regain a majority at the agency's five-person leadership.

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