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Trump's FCC chair shuts down celebrities pushing net neutrality conspiracy theory

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai shut down a conspiracy theory being peddled online by two actors about net neutrality. (Eric Thayer/Getty Images)

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai shot down a conspiracy theory being propagated by two Hollywood celebrities concerning the controversial topic of net neutrality.

What was the conspiracy theory?

Both actress Alyssa Milano and actor Mark Ruffalo assailed Chairman Pai with the same accusation — that Russian agents were tipping the debate on net neutrality by using "bots" to influence the FCC comment system.

"Hello [Chairman Ajit Pai]? Why are Putin's bots working for you?" Ruffalo said, adding a tweet from Alyssa Milano with a link to an article reporting that the FCC received 444,938 comments about net neutrality from Russian email addresses.

A study found that millions of emails that were received by the comment system were under dubious circumstances. Another 444,938 came from Russian email addresses — it was unclear if those were authentic emails messages or from "bots."

What was Pai's response?

Pai pointed out that, although 444,938 comments reported from Russia, they were in support of net neutrality, not against, as the celebrities were assuming.

Even more interesting is that the article the celebrities were tweeting at the FCC chairman had the self-refuting information Pai cited.

“The most suspicious activity has been by those supporting internet regulation,” FCC spokesman Brian Hart said. “We do not purge form letters, such as these, from the record as we err on the side of keeping the public record open and do not have the resources to investigate every comment that is filed."

What is net neutrality?

The term net neutrality refers to regulation of the internet that former President Barack Obama implemented during his tenure. It was intended to prevent Internet Service Providers from charging different clients different rates for their use of the internet.

Critics of the regulation, including Pai, say it will stifle innovation and doesn't really protect consumers. The debate has grown very heated, with net neutrality supporters leaving messages outside Pai's home and identifying his children by name publicly.

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