The New York Times has sued the FCC over allegations of hiding evidence of Russian interference in Net Neutrality repeal
Yesterday, the New York Times decided to sue the FCC over repeated denials through the Freedom of Information Act to obtain information pertaining to the FCC's public comment function that preceded the repeal of net neutrality. The publication has stated it wishes to verify whether or not the Russian government played any part in shaping the FCC's decision on net neutrality, and there may be legitimate reason for some concern as it was found that millions of these comments were fake. This comment campaign even went so far as to make comments on behalf of President Barack Obama, Clark Kent (otherwise known as Superman), and Bruce Wayne (otherwise known as Batman).
The NYT claims it narrowed the scope of its requests each time after being denied, however ultimately the FCC simply denied each one. The publication claims the FCC cited several reasons as to why these requests could not be fulfilled:
The FCC has responded to The Times's attempt to resolve this matter without litigation with protestations that the agency lacked the technical capacity to respond to the request, the invocation of shifting rationales for rejecting The Times's request, and the misapplication of FoIA's privacy exemption to duck the agency's responsibilities under FoIA.
The FCC argued that releasing these records could violate the privacy of the individuals who commented on the FCC's website, however the NYT claims that since the comments are already public that there is no expectation of privacy, or at least that all private information could be simply redacted. The FCC then argued that their security could be compromised, so eventually the NYT, before suing, simply asked for IP addresses, time stamps, and the browsers used for comments, all as separate entities in order to satisfy the FCC's privacy concerns.
Of course, the FCC denied this last request, which prompted the lawsuit. The FCC still maintains that it cannot release any information at all as it would risk security breaches. In a comment to Ars Technica, the agency said:
We are disappointed that The New York Times has filed suit to collect the Commission's internal Web server logs, logs whose disclosure would put at jeopardy the Commission's IT security practices for its Electronic Comment Filing System," an FCC spokesperson told Ars. "Indeed, just last week the US District Court for the District of Columbia held that the FCC need not turn over these same web server logs under the Freedom of Information Act.
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