Local names, addresses used in phony public comments on net neutrality

Published: Thursday, December 14, 2017 @ 9:27 AM

Stolen identities linked to fake net neutrality comments online

Millions of comments have been submitted to the Federal Communications Commission’s public portal in advance of a vote today to roll back net neutrality rules — which say that internet service providers must treat all web traffic equally.

The high volume of comments and the fact that many statements in opposition to net neutrality appear to be from faked sources or duplicates, has supporters of a free and open internet crying foul.

RELATED: State attorneys general ask FCC to delay net neutrality vote

The Pew Research Center analyzed the comments that were submitted between April 27 and Aug. 30 of this year. During that time period nearly 22 million comments were submitted, dwarfing the 4 million that were submitted during a comment process on the same topic in 2014.

The analysis found:

  • 57 percent of the comments used duplicate or temporary email addresses.
  • Of the 21.7 million comments, 6 percent were unique. The other 94 percent were submitted multiple times — in some cases, hundreds of thousands of times. The seven most-submitted comments (six of which argued in favor of changes the FCC wants to make) comprised 38 percent of all the submissions.
  • On nine different occasions, more than 75,000 comments were submitted at the very same second — often including identical or highly similar comments.

Further investigations by multiple news outlets have found real people whose names and addresses appeared on comments they didn’t submit.

A search of the FCC comments by this news organization found names and addresses in Centerville, Kettering, Fairborn and Beavercreek to name a few, linked to fake comments used to lobby the feds to get rid of net neutrality rules.

RELATED: Here’s what you need to know about net neutrality

Former Miami County resident Carol Bayse has heard of the net neutrality issue, but said she doesn’t have strong enough opinions on it to write to the FCC. Yet her name and a former address in Franklin County showed up with a statement against net neutrality rules.

She said she was confused and concerned when she found out her name was attached to a fake comment.

“That’s where the internet is a scary thing,” Bayse said. “Our identities are being taken and it’s just, how do you stop it?”

A recent Politico poll shows 52 percent of Americans are in favor of maintaining net neutrality, while only 18 percent were actively opposed to it.

In response to media requests and a letter from New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman expressing concern over the volume of fake comments, the FCC said it plans to vote on the “Restoring Internet Freedom” rule change on Thursday as planned.

The commission acknowledged there is always a potential for abuse of the open public comment form. In the past the agency has received comments from Superman and Batman, among others.

“But the commission does not make policy decisions merely by tallying the comments on either side of the proposal to determine what position has greater support, nor does it attribute greater weight to comments based on the submitter’s identity,” FCC General Counsel Thomas Johnson, Jr. said in response to Schneiderman’s inquiry.

The FCC said it did not consider any of the comments identified as fake in drafting the proposed rule change.

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Go ahead and walk on this: Dayton’s newest street art project

Published: Thursday, April 19, 2018 @ 6:02 AM

            Street art
Street art

Dayton’s newest art public project has hit the pavement.

Words of wisdom, positivity and clever encouragement can be found underfoot on sidewalks across Dayton.

One message, placed near East Third and South St. Clair streets, advises, “Do what you love, love what you do.”

RELATED: Dayton Arcade’s sleeping giant: Art grabs attention, points to future

Another, near Twist Cupcakery, says, “Be a cupcake in a world of muffins.”

Outside of the Neon movie theater, passersby are told, “You are a star!”

The words on the street are brought to you by young artists from the HAALO program.

The acronym stands for Helping Adolescents Achieve Long-term Objectives, and is a partnership between Montgomery County Juvenile Court and the K12 Gallery & TEJAS.

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Young people are painting about 35 inspirational and positive messages as part of a temporary art installation called Footsteps of Inspiration. About 15 of the affirmations have been installed and more are coming soon.

The art will remain for about 90 days — possibly longer — if the paint doesn’t fade.

“We’ve never had anything like this before,” said Brittini Long, community engagement coordinator with Montgomery County Juvenile Court.

RELATED: 10 murals that make buildings beautiful in downtown Dayton

HALLO youth, as well other artists, have made downtown Dayton a lot more colorful.

Since 2010, participants in the HAALO Program, aided by other artists, have helped create 25 murals throughout the city.

One of the newer murals is at West Third and Williams streets in the Wright Dunbar neighborhood, which highlights highlights the Dayton Region’s Walk of Fame.

The youth also produced 17 master replicas of famous artwork that adorn the side of some vacant buildings at East Third and Sears streets.

The Footsteps of Inspiration is expected to become an annual project.

Other art projects have similarly tried to liven up what could be otherwise drab elements of the urban landscape.

Nine of Dayton’s storm drains are now eye-catching reminders that water alone is supposed to go into the storm water system.

The Dayton Arcade now has a cartoonish sleeping giant covering the north entrance to the property.

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Councilman apologizes for comments to Plush family amid calls for resignation

Published: Thursday, April 19, 2018 @ 4:49 AM

Cincinnati council member apologizes to Plush family

A Cincinnati councilman is apologizing for comments he made to Kyle Plush’s family while the county’s republican chairman has called for his resignation.

Democratic Cincinnati City Councilman Wendell Young implied Plush’s family may seek financial compensation for the teen’s death in a Tuesday special council meeting, saying, “But there’s no amount of money that’s going to make you happy.”

Kyle Plush suffocated in a van last week despite calling 911 twice.

>> RELATED: Family of Kyle Plush storms out of Cincinnati special council meeting

“The choice of words I used, while not intending to cause hurt, allowed them to misinterpret what I was trying to say,” Young said at Wednesday’s council meeting, according to our partners at WCPO. “My fault entirely.”

Alex Triantafilou, chairman of the Hamilton County Republican Party, called for Young’s resignation, according to WCPO.

>>RELATED: How did Cincinnati teen become trapped, suffocate in van seat?

“I was offended and hurt for the family,” Triantafilou said. “I think our community has been so affected by this tragedy, and to have an elected leader in government make remarks that were so cross and painful — I was sad. I was saddened by the whole thing.”

Young's colleagues on city council said the exchange was embarrassing. 

>> RELATED: Who was Kyle Plush? Community remembers teen crushed to death by van seat

"You have to be ultra-sensitive and supportive of the family, and he definitely missed the mark there," Republican Amy Murray said. "It was shocking to me." 

Democrat Tamaya Dennard also called it "shocking," while fellow Democrat Greg Landsman called it "awful." 

"I don't know how to explain it. It was a terrible, terrible thing," Landsman said. 

>> RELATED: ‘Tell my mom I love her if I die’, teen pleads as van seat fatally crushes him

Tim Burke, the county's Democratic Party chairman, told WCPO by phone that calls for Young's resignation were unjustified.

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Local man wins $20,000 in popular ‘HQ Trivia’ game app 

Published: Thursday, April 19, 2018 @ 2:31 AM

Local man wins $20K from popular phone app

A Miamisburg man won $20,000 after recently playing the popular HQ Trivia game app on his phone.

OTHER LOCAL NEWS: Butler County, Cincinnati  shops offer deals for Record Store Day

Jason Varney answered 15 trivia questions correctly on the app that typically allows people, twice a day, to attempt to get 12 trivia questions right in efforts to win part of a $5,000 jackpot.

In Varney’s case, the prize amount went up to $250,000 as part of a marketing deal between the app and a movie. The increased prize money also called for an increase in the number of questions he had to answer, from 12 to 15.

“When I was getting past question 12, my heart was pumping out of my shirt. I could’t believe what was going. It was visibly beating through my shirt. It was incredible”, Varney said. 

>>WHIO Mobile Alerts

He said the $20,000 will allow him to fly to Florida to see his great grandmother, who is recovering from a heart procedure. 

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40-plus cats euthanized after infection sweeps Tenn. animal shelter 

Published: Thursday, April 19, 2018 @ 4:15 AM

Animal lovers angry after 40-plus cats euthanized at Tenn shelter.

An animal shelter in Tennessee is defending its decision to euthanize more than 40 cats after an infection swept through the facility. 

>> Woman hospitalized after pet cat attacks 

According to WATE-TV, animal lovers became outraged after learning the Pets without Parents shelter, which was reported to be a “no-kill” facility, put down dozens of cats. 

After weeks of attempting to nurse close to 50 cats that became infected with upper respiratory infections back to health, the shelter said euthanization was their last resort and only option. 

“My heart is animals,” said Lory Souders, the shelter’s president. “I’ve tried to save as many as I can.”

Although a number of people in the community claim the shelter isn’t doing enough to properly care for the animals and prevent disease from spreading, Souders says the problem is overcrowding.

>> Cat rescued from tree near Hospice of Dayton

Pets Without Parents has a contract with the county and the city, and must accept all pets dropped off by animal control.

"We have had a situation here," Souders said. "We've been full for a long time."

Not only are they full, but they're well over capacity. The facility is built to house around 150 pets, and it's now holding more than 200.

Despite the overcrowded challenges, Souders said the only time they euthanize is when animals are either too aggressive or too sick to find a new home.

What the facility really needs, according to Souders, is for more people to give shelter animals loving homes.

Souders hopes this unfortunate situation raises awareness about adopting and volunteering with animals. 

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