Comment and Integrity Management

The Comment Integrity and Management Act Shines a Light on Organized Campaigns

Organized campaigns mobilizing large numbers of commenters have been playing a significant role in the public comment process for rulemaking ever since the Administrative Procedures Act was enacted in 1946. These campaigns lower barriers and increase public participation by providing draft form letters or suggested talking points for supporters to easily customize and submit. From their inception, organized campaigns have produced thousands – sometimes millions – of identical or nearly-identical comments for rulemaking agencies to sort through. However, recent technological developments, including the introduction of artificial intelligence into the process, have exponentially increased the quantity of public comments, posing a novel challenge. This volume is straining agency resources and making it harder than ever to identify unique, substantive submissions among a sea of form letters. In 2021, the ACUS Committee on Rulemaking issued recommendations addressing the ways in which new technology is facilitating an increasing number of organized campaign submissions. ACUS suggests that agencies should implement processes and software that will help them adapt to the changing landscape. In other words, agencies can fight fire with fire, combating the impact of technology on the public comments process with technology of their own. Congress is codifying that recommendation with the Comment Integrity and Management Act of 2024 (CIMA).

“Agencies should manage mass comments by using tools that allow them to de-duplicate comments.”

– ACUS Committee on Rulemaking

DocketScope Helps Identify and Analyze Organized Campaigns in the Notice & Comment Process

Inspired by the ACUS recommendations, the Comment and Integrity Management Act of 2024 (CIMA) was introduced this past March and advanced to the House floor with bipartisan support in the House Oversight and Accountability Committee. CIMA aims to help agencies more efficiently process comments while still ensuring that the voice of the public is heard. It would require agencies to establish policies on posting and considering mass comments like those from organized campaigns.

The new legislation would improve the integrity and management of mass comments and computer-generated comments in the regulatory review process, and it is widely expected to pass without difficulty. After it does, the federal government will provide guidance documents to agencies within 240 days. This will likely include guidance around how to leverage software tools like DocketScope to discriminate between human and machine-generated comments and to identify and label mass comments.

A powerful tool that can automatically identify and flag comments containing duplicate and substantially similar text, DocketScope expedites any rulemaking agency’s ability to track and manage organized campaigns. By automating the process of identifying campaign-related comments, DocketScope can save agency staff significant time and effort.

  • The software uses advanced algorithms to detect clusters of comments that are likely part of organized campaigns and flagging them for analyst attention. When multiple comments contain repeated instances of specific text that has likely been generated with a campaign template, the platform notices and identifies them so that agencies consider their contents only once.
  • After comments have been identified as part of an organized campaign, DocketScope categorizes them as “Form Letters.” This allows agency staff to manage multiple campaigns and quickly determine how many comments are associated with each campaign, which would be required under the Comment and Integrity Management Act for all comments deemed to be “identical or substantially identical” organized submissions.
  • Comment reviewers can distinguish between comments that are identical to a campaign’s template and those that include new substantive content added by the commenter with DocketScope’s “Form Plus” categorization. This is key because – as the O&A Committee discussed when considering legislation – agencies must be able to identify and appropriately consider individualized comments, even if they are submitted as part of an organized campaign. Agencies can fulfill their obligation to consider substantive public feedback when they are able to easily see which campaign comments have added unique input.

By efficiently handling the challenges posed by mass comments from organized campaigns, DocketScope streamlines the public comment review process. As organized campaign submissions proliferate, particularly in high-profile rulemaking, software solutions like DocketScope will be essential for agencies to effectively de-duplicate comments while simultaneously continuing to incorporate mass comments into their decision-making. Partnering with DocketScope now will help agencies comply with potential requirements of the Comment and Integrity Management Act by ensuring that they are able to identify and consider all relevant input from the public in their rulemaking process.

DocketScope’s intuitive software transforms public comments analysis for proposed regulations, allowing agency policy staff to effortlessly identify the “relevant matter presented” as required by the Administrative Procedure Act, freeing time for agency policy staff to focus on considering the issues raised and writing targeted responses to stakeholder comments. Schedule your demo today.