Do they use dial up?
Is Federal Communications Commission’s lying about its website problems?
It seems silly to lie to the public about something so trivial, but these are strange times.
Oliver strikes again
FCC’s public comment filing system experienced delays last Sunday. Hours earlier, John Oliver urged his viewers to file pro-regulation, pro-net neutrality comments on FCC’s website during his HBO show, Last Week Tonight.
On Monday, the FCC said it was not people who caused the delay, but “external factors.”
FCC apparently underwent debilitating cyber attacks that deliberately “bombard the FCC’s comment system with a high amount of traffic.” In other words, FCC claimed to be a victim of a distributed denial of service (DDoS), making it difficult for legitimate commenters to access and file complaints.
On Tuesday, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, asked for further clarification.
“A denial-of-service attack against the FCC’s website can prevent the public from being able to contribute to this process and have their voices heard,” the letter reads. “Any potentially hostile cyber activities that prevent Americans from being able to participate in a fair and transparent process must be treated as a serious issue.”
On Wednesday, reports claimed that more than 58,000 anti-net neutrality comments were fake, and contained the same language, although the origin of the duplicate comments remain unknown.
This only seems to have raised people’s suspicion.
Even politicians smell fish
The public has a right to know, the senators argued in their joint letter. In specific, they demanded to know the duration of the attacks, evidence of who the responsible parties may be and if the FCC is collaborating with other federal agencies.
The senators also pointed out that the attack, if legitimate, is a serious threat, “doubly so if the attack may have prevented Americans from being able to weigh in on your proposal to roll back net neutrality protections.”
The senators set a deadline of June 8 for the FCC to brief the Congress. The agency has not responded to the letter yet.
Advocacy groups and some network engineers seem skeptical of FCC’s claims. This is not the first time that the FCC site crashed. Back in 2014, FCC site crashed because of a surge in comments during the net neutrality debate, and the Commission created a special email address for submitting comments. The senators asked for viable alternatives this time around well.
“The official FCC position in 2014 was not that there was a DDoS attack following the John Oliver segment, because there was no clear evidence that such an attack occurred,” former top FCC Democratic staffer Gigi Sohn said in a statement on Thursday.
FCC is in an open war against phishing attacks. Last year it convened the “robocall strike force.”
DDoS or BS ?
For now, it remains unclear if the FCC disabled its public comments page on purpose, and is trying to hide behind the excuse of a DDoS attack.
Nevertheless, perhaps the bigger question is this— shall volume of comments, pro or anti neutrality sway the debate in any way? Can comments truly persuade FCC to reconsider?