Trump FCC Breaks Internet, Blames It On Dog

In another not-at-all shocking turn of events, the FCC seems to have purposely lied to reporters in an attempt to stop people from talking about net neutrality. Tech blog Gizmodo got its hands on internal emails showing how the FCC not only conned the public, but also concocted a scheme that even FCC staffers say is completely false.

First the back story: last May John Oliver ran a story about Trump's FCC attempting to kill net neutrality. The piece told people to file comments on the FCC's antiquated website in support of net neutrality rules. The campaign worked so well that the site crashed as thousands of people went to file comments simultaneously. The same thing happened back in 2014 when Oliver ran a similar story under the same circumstances.

Nerds like to call this a "hug of death." It's a lot like what happens when the Three Stooges get stuck trying to cram through the same doorway. It typically happens when a smaller blog or website publishes something that then goes viral.

In 2014 the FCC saw the flood of comments and decided to make net neutrality the law of the land. After Trump got elected, his FCC chair Ajit Pai decided to kill net neutrality, claiming it's what people wanted. The FCC opened up a public comment period for the public to weigh on something we thought was already settled, and boom, hug of death.

[wonkbar]<a href=""></a><a href=""></a>[/wonkbar]Rather than admit that they were on the wrong side of public opinion, Trump's FCC officials decided to claim they were "hacked." The FCC's then-chief information officer David Bray quietly began pushing the narrative that not only had the FCC fallen victim to a malicious cyber attack, but the same thing had happened back in 2014 under the stewardship of Tom Wheeler, Obama's FCC chair. Their idea was to invalidate the flood of pro-net neutrality comments pouring in from across the web.

Bray claimed Wheeler covered up the attack in fear of "copycat" attacks. When reporters asked for proof, Bray, the senior official in charge of the commenting system, couldn't actually produce any evidence. Even though security officials were calling "bullshit" on the hack, Bray and FCC director of media relations Mark Wigfield began reaching out to reporters and pushing their lie.

This led to a kerfuffle among nerds after the one tech reporter dumb enough to believe this crap not only began defending Bray's lie, but also encouraged Bray to attack other writers at his publication, even going so far as to suggest Bray demand corrections from other writers in support of the hacking claim.

[wonkbar]<a href=""></a>[/wonkbar]The FCC's version of events is not only false but laughably false. They're claiming they were victims of a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack, which happens when someone attempts to imitate a hug of death with a slave network or botnet. DDoS attacks are one of the oldest hack attacks, simple to execute, and easy to identify. With the FCC's commenting system now based in the cloud it's much harder to execute a successful DDoS attack, and it invalidates Bray's claim that the FCC was under a lopsided attack in 2014.

Bray has since written a jargony post on Medium defending his actions, and attacking the original Gizmodo story. Bray says hundreds of lopsided comments in support of net neutrality were spamming their system for several days following the Oliver piece, yet provides little verifiable evidence to back this up. If the FCC were under attack in either 2014 or 2017 there would more than enough evidence for the cyber police, or the FBI, to backtrace it.

Interestingly, following the initial incident, over two million comments appeared on the FCC's commenting system that advocated against net neutrality, spurring investigations by the New York attorney general's office. This included names of dead people, politicians, and celebrities who have publicly stated they did not make the comments.

The FCC has declined to investigate any of this, and is stonewalling congressional oversight hearings. Though the Senate recently passed a bipartisan bill to restore net neutrality, it's likely to collect dust in the House as Republicans are loath to offend corporate donors in the middle of an election. Since bald-faced lies begin at the Trump administration, it's unlikely we'll get a straight answer from anyone in the FCC anytime soon ... you know, unless someone takes down Twitter.

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[Gizmodo / Medium]

Dominic Gwinn

Dominic is a broke journalist in Chicago. You can find him in a dirty bar talking to weirdos, or in a gutter taking photos.


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