Wow, don't miss this dense and detailed BuzzFeed News investigative journalism piece on web comment spam: Net Neutrality Fake Comments: How Political Operatives Duped Ajit Pai's FCC
Sarah Reeves sat on her couch in Eugene, Oregon, staring at her laptop screen in furious disbelief. She was reading the website of a government agency, where her mother appeared to have posted a comment weighing in on a bitter policy battle for control of the internet. Something was very wrong.
For a start, Annie Reeves, who loved to lead children’s sing-alongs at the Alaska Zoo, had never followed wonky policy debates. She barely knew her way around the web, let alone held strident views on how it should be regulated — and, according to her daughter, she definitely didn’t post angry comments on government websites.
But Sarah Reeves had a more conclusive reason to feel sure her mother’s name had been taken in vain: Annie Reeves was dead. She died more than a year before the comment was posted.
And, as the article goes on to note, it's not just the Net Neutrality website that was manipulated in this fashion.
In February 2018, lawmakers in South Carolina were “flooded” with emails opposing legislative efforts that they said would endanger the multibillion-dollar sale of Scana Corporation to Dominion Energy.
South Carolina House Majority Leader Rep. Gary Simrill found something suspicious about the correspondence. Among the emails he received was one from his good friend, William Barron. Why would Barron — whom he speaks to often and had seen within the past week — send him a form letter? He decided to try responding to the email. But when Simrill clicked to reply, the email address that popped up was one he had never seen Barron use. Perplexed, Simrill phoned Barron.
“Someone’s impersonating me,” Barron told local reporters. “It’s very discouraging, and it reeks of fraudulence.”
Simrill notified his Republican caucus colleagues. None could find a constituent who said they had really sent the correspondence, Simrill told BuzzFeed News.
There's more. A lot more. With lots of links and background material to chase. Incidents in Texas. Incidents in New York. On and on.