FCC caught in lies about flood of net neutrality comments

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The Federal Communications Commission lied when it claimed its online public comment system was blocked by a deliberate and malicious cyber attack, after HBO’s John Oliver issued a call to arms over plans to repeal network neutrality rules. Then it lied again to protect the first lie. That’s the conclusion of an investigation into the incident by Gizmodo.

As I blogged about at the time, the FCC’s online system came to a grinding halt, apparently after being flooded with automated comments of dubious origin that supported the repeal. In a press release, the FCC blamed it on “multiple distributed denial-of-service attacks (DDos)”. Later, according to Gizmodo, the FCC tried to back up that statement by saying a similar attack knocked out its comment system in 2014.

According to documents pieced together by Gizmodo, both claims were false…

Internal emails reviewed by Gizmodo lay bare the agency’s [2017] efforts to counter rife speculation that senior officials manufactured a cyberattack, allegedly to explain away technical problems plaguing the FCC’s comment system amid its high-profile collection of public comments on a controversial and since-passed proposal to overturn federal net neutrality rules…

David Bray, who served as the FCC’s chief information officer from 2013 until June 2017, assured reporters in a series of off-the-record exchanges that a DDoS attack had occurred three years earlier. More shocking, however, is that Bray claimed Wheeler, the former FCC chairman, had covered it up.

Bray responded in a blog post of his own, saying picky, picky, picky

Whether the correct phrase is denial of service or “bot swarm” or “something hammering the Application Programming Interface” (API) of the commenting system — the fact is something odd was happening in May 2017.

That’s kind of like calling the police and saying you can’t leave your house because you’re under siege by a North Korean special forces battalion, but when they show up, they find you drove home drunk and parked your car too close to the garage door.

Well, okay officer. But I swear, something odd was happening.