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Public Lab Research note

Risks to public comment

by liz | December 03, 2017 18:52 03 Dec 18:52 | #15290 | #15290

Lead image by FRANK AUGUGLIARO for Wired, article linked below

Public comment is a governmentally-hosted process that allows individuals, organizations, agencies, and businesses to provide input on proposed governmental decisions.

In the recent high profile public comment period on Net Neutrality, the online forum was overrun by bots.

For context, although public comment is *the* way for the public to signal to regulators, it is not binding for rule-makers to shape their rules according this public input. With that in mind, it becomes apparent that this type of automated attack leaves the door open for public opinion to be even further disregarded. Listen to the story in an engaging and accessible 8 minute segment in the recent "On the Media" podcast, linked here:

http://www.wnyc.org/story/public-comment-broken with writer Issie Lapowski https://www.wired.com/story/bots-broke-fcc-public-comment-system/

The takeaway -- get motivated to improve signaling between people and government.

(For a helpful guide to how you can engage with the public comment process on environmental regulations, with tips for dealing with state-level agencies, see https://publiclab.org/wiki/public-comment)


Linking to the Public Comment wiki page, which is quite good: https://publiclab.org/wiki/public-comment

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I can't speak to bots , but comments tend to be a pretty powerful way to swing local issues. The best combo for us has been a bunch of people who can speak from the heart (with a little bit of specificity), paired with one or two voices who can speak the language of the decision-makers (and thus can help to clearly lay out an alternate vision so the deciders don't have to do that much thinking about it).

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This is a great description of strategy @kgradow1 ! Would you consider adding it in to the second paragraph on the wiki, under https://publiclab.org/wiki/public-comment#What+can+public+comment+achieve? , or perhaps starting a new paragraph for municipal level public comment? It is more specific than the description of strategy that is currently there.

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