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VIEWpoint Issue 2 | 2021
An Oct. 24, 2019 United States Senate staff report sheds light on the problems inherent in the current electronic comment process of federal rulemaking. The staff report, titled “Abuses of the Federal Notice-And-Comment Rulemaking Process,” details manipulation by some entities and individuals of the online system used for submitting comments on proposed rules and regulations. Comments are submitted falsely under another person’s identity. For example, according to the Federal Communications Commission, it appears that LeBron James commented on proposed rules 43 times while Adolf Hitler commented 41. In other instances, comments have not even been submitted by real people, but rather “bots.” Federal agencies, including the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, lack the ability to verify identities and address possible fraud and identity theft. Even if agencies are aware of commenters using false identities, they do not take enough action to address it. Some commenters submit voluminous materials intended to overload the system and disrupt the comment process. There is also the issue of the publication of comments containing profanity and abusive language. Among the recommendations in the report is a recommendation to begin utilizing technology to ensure that only real human beings are commenting on rules, utilize guidance on the degree to which to consider the volume of comments, and not accept abusive or profane comments.
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