Comment bots? What comment bots? Exactly 86,000 identical comments filed to regulations.gov website? Since the Takedownabuse.org website wasn’t even created until march 31st 2:29pm New York time, that is at least 40 comments a minute. But even that is likely an underestimate. How long did it take to build the website and code a web form to comment bomb the regulations.gov site?
The Copyright Office has posted the results of the comment gathering process on the DMCA “Takedown and Notice” provision 512 (i). The Takedown and Notice process is an important (if weak) tool available to copyright owners to combat copyright infringement on the web. Basically the Takedown and Notice provision forces musicians and songwriters to police the entire web (at considerable expense) and send a notice for each and every infringing file on the web. The tech behemoths that host this material are granted a “safe harbor” from the infringement generated by their users if they respond in a timely fashion to these notices and remove the files. However virtually every one of these tech behemoths allows users to simply immediately upload the file again. This “whack-a-mole” system has been very profitable for tech companies. Google owned YouTube generates significant revenue (8 Billion dollars according to Morgan Stanley) from the “user generated content” supported platform.
In the case of my catalogue most of this user generated content on YouTube isn’t really generated by users at all. It’s simply album art and ripped audio that I own, none of which was “generated” by the users. Further the repetition of certain key phrases in the profiles of these “users” suggest that much of this style of mass infringement is committed by an organized group. Yes, I am arguing RICO laws apply. It seems odd that a company that claims its mission is to “organize the worlds information” would not be able to write a simple algorithm to flag this type of behavior that appears to be criminal. But then again that would give them “red flag” knowledge and they could no longer Sgt. Shultz (“I see nothing!”) the problem. And then there is the matter of all those billions of views they’d actually have to pay royalties on…
So naturally when the Copyright Office decided to review the Notice and Takedown provisions everyone in the creative community expected pushback from Google and astroturf proxies like www.fightforthefuture.org. (AstroTurf? What sort of grassroots organizations can hire a DC lobbyist like Pale Blue?) What no one expected was for proxies like Fight For The Future to apparently violate the law in their pushback.
Violate the law? Yes. Fight For The Future created a “comment bot” that bombed the Regulations.gov website with identical, anonymous and most likely fraudulent multiple comments to the Copyright Office. Consider the following:
- Fight for the Future bragged to it’s supporters that their “campaign” (actually a comment bot) crashed the Copyright Office website. If this claim is true how is this not a “denial of service” attack on a federal government server?
- If this claim is false, why is FFTF asking for donations using this false claim? False advertising?
- The rules for submission of comments to the Regulations.gov website clearly state that comments must be made to their website, not made to the FFTF website and then submitted by robots to the regulations.gov website.
- 47,418 of the comments submitted by FFTF to the regulations.gov website did not disclose first and last name as required. Many are anonymous and clearly fake names like “Fuck DMCA” or “Screw DMCA.” Why did regulations.gov post these comments? These do not meet the requirements. (see screenshots).
- FFTF partnered with Channel Awesome on YouTube to generate comments. This channel is largely oriented to teens and pre-teens. This was essentially a political advertisement to children. The FTC has generally required much higher standards when it comes to exaggerations and dubious claims when ads are directed to children. Even if this is not illegal (I’m not an expert), I think it is totally insane (and creepy) to push hysterical misinformation on a channel directed at children and then direct them to make comments on a third party website that then posts these comments to government website where they are required to identify themselves! What kind of people get minors involved in something that may turn out to be an illegal activity? Where are the grownups?
- My test of the FFTF comment bot indicated that it accepted comments from IP addresses outside of the United States.
- My test of the FFTF comment bot indicated that one could simply reload the page and post over and over again. Thus allowing fraudulent multiple comments.
- My test of the FFTF comment bot indicated that it did not verify email addresses or names of those commenting and yet posted these comments to the regulations.gov website.
- A suspiciously round number of comments were identical (86,000) and used the FFTF template (see screenshots). Sure that’s not proof of bots, but it is weird. And the OMB (manages regulations.gov) should really look into this.
47,418 comments filed and accepted by Regulations.gov website fail to properly identify person posting comment. Almost all of these comments appear to have been submitted using the FFTF comment bot. (Contained template text).
Fake name example 1
Fake name example 2
Fight For The Future bragging about repeatedly crashing Copyright Office’s servers while soliciting donations for their organization. Also notice the “more than 86,000 comments.” They really like that number.
The Children’s Crusade: Fight For The Future partnered with teen oriented YouTube Channel Awesome in comment bombing of copyright office.
Website was created March 31st at 2:29 NY Time.
Corrections: We did the math on the daylight savings time backwards. It was actually 2:29 pm Eastern when the website was created. Not 12:29 as previously stated. An earlier version of this post said “did verify email addresses” when in fact we meant “did not verify email addresses”.