The federal government web system accepting online comments on the FDA’s proposed flavor regulations for e-liquid has been compromised by the submission of more than a quarter-million spam comments.
According to reporting from Brent Stafford at Regulator Watch, the FDA Division of Dockets Management (DDM) has admitted that its servers have been overwhelmed by the comments, most of which were uploaded by bots during one weekend in June. The comments all appear to advocate against allowing vape flavors.
The agency logged 255,000 comments from the same four IP addresses during the weekend beginning June 8. By June 11, when the DDM was able to stop the flood of submissions, the computers were bogged down with the comments, and now — nearly a month later — the agency still hasn’t solved the problem. For the last two weeks, the agency hasn’t approved and published a single comment from the queue of hundreds of thousands pending.
But who was responsible, and what will happen now to the thousands of legitimate pending comments from vapers and vape businesses opposing flavor regulations?
The spam “comments” were unsigned, and all follow one of four templates, including three that used language copied from an April Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids letter to FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb. Sociologist Amelia Howard, in a Twitter post (see below), identified additional wording copied from a form letter to California mayors created by the California Department of Public Health.
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