- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Federal Communications Commission claims its website was attacked after HBO’s “Last Week Tonight” host John Oliver roused viewers on Sunday evening to file online complaints with the agency over its reversal of Obama-era net neutrality rules, but critics say there’s reason to believe the FCC is crying wolf over the supposed cyberattacks.

Addressing the Trump administration’s plans to walk back telecommunication regulations passed under former President Barack Obama, Mr. Oliver implored his audience during Sunday’s broadcast to visit the FCC’s website and urge the agency to reconsider. To simplify matters, HBO purchased a domain name — gofccyourself.com — which automatically redirects visitors to the hard-to-find comment section of the FCC’s website.

The FCC said in a statement Monday that it was hit with multiple distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks moments after the broadcast concluded, effectively crashing the agency’s website and disrupting its ability to handle comments.

“These were deliberate attempts by external actors to bombard the FCC’s comment system with a high amount of traffic to our commercial cloud host,” the statement said. “These actors were not attempting to file comments themselves; rather they made it difficult for legitimate commenters to access and file with the FCC.”

Absent evidence, however, free and open internet advocates this week said they’re skeptical of the FCC’s explanation, to say the least. Fight for the Future, a digital rights group that lobbied in favor of the net neutrality rules currently on the chopping block, noted Tuesday that the FCC similarly blamed DDoS attacks for disrupting its website in 2014 amid a practically identical campaign instigated by Mr. Oliver.

“We are calling the FCC to release their logs to an independent security researcher or major media outlet who can verify their claims and inform the public about what really happened here,” the group said Tuesday. “The agency has a responsibility to maintain a functioning website to receive large numbers of comments and feedback from the public. They can’t blame DDoS attacks without proof, they need to fix this problem and ensure that comments on this important issue are not lost.”

An FCC spokesman did not immediately respond when asked how it determined a DDoS attack caused problems for its website, The Hill reported. As of Tuesday, meanwhile, the FCC website has received nearly 350,000 comments concerning its plan to gut previously approved net neutrality rules.

If walked back as expected, the FCC will erode regulations prohibiting internet companies from throttling connection speeds and otherwise restricting online access.

“Net neutrality is about more than just speed,” Mr. Oliver said on the Sunday’s episode. “At its heart, it is the principle that internet service providers, or ISPs like these guys, should not be able to engage in any sort of [expletive] that engages or manipulates the choices you make online.”

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