The FCC may have authorized fraudulent claims of a DDoS attack after getting flooded by John Oliver fans. Now, the GAO is investigating the matter further.
Did the FCC flat-out lie about a denial-of-service attack to mute broader concerns about net neutrality? And specifically, a ‘coordinated attack’ of real people by John Oliver?
Amazingly, that’s starting to look like the case.
Just a few days ago, House Energy & Commerce Committee ranking member Frank Pallone (D-NJ) cited a story in Gizmodo that reviewed FCC internal emails. The emails exposed the FCC’s machinations to counter speculations that senior officials manufactured a cyber attack involving fcc.gov.
The ruse was meant to explain away technical problems plaguing its comment system.
During an open comment period, the FCC’s site was slammed with people. On May 7th, for example, John Oliver encouraged people to flood the FCC’s site to support net neutrality. That probably caused the FCC’s site to seriously slow down or crash, because so many people were concerned about the rollback.
Aside from performance issues, the comment system also had little verification or even monitoring. According to a subsequent study by Pew, roughly 94% of all comments were duplicates. Even today, the flooded comment system has false remarks from Obama.
Separately, FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel admitted to Russian interference, fake comments and stolen identities in the comment threads — though amazingly, no action has been taken to address the issue.
That is, except for the construction of a false narrative about why the system was getting flooded.
David Bray, who was the FCC’s chief information officer from 2013 until June 2017, in an off-the-record exchange with reporters, confirmed that a DDoS attack had occurred three years earlier. He further said that Tom Wheeler, the former FCC chairman, had covered it up.
Exchanges between Bray and the reporters were via emails. In the emails, Bray said that “Wheeler was concerned that if the FCC publicly admitted there was an attack, it would likely incite copycats.”
But this was all denied by Gigi Sohn, the former counselor to Chairman Wheeler. According to Sohn, the FCC didn’t say anything about the alleged attacks, and Bray lacked any evidence that a DDoS attack occurred. The emails were accessed by American Oversight, under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), and 1,300 pages of records were reviewed by Gizmodo in the recent weeks.
Pallone believes there was a concerted effort by the FCC to mislead the public about cyberattack claims specifically in May 2017 and back in 2014.
These “attacks” are related to the network neutrality. To quote Pallone, “Last summer, I directed Government Accountability Office investigators to get to the bottom of this alleged cyber attack and the FCC’s unusual response.”
“In light of today’s news, I call on chairman [Ajit] Pai to ensure the FCC fully cooperates with GAO’s investigation so the American people can finally get a full accounting as to what happened in advance of the agency stripping away critical net neutrality protections.”