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FCC Claims Website Crash Caused By DDoS Attacks, Not John Oliver's Call For Net Neutrality's Last Stand

9 May 2017, 7:33 am EDT By Aaron Mamiit Tech Times
Comedian and TV show host invited viewers to take their last stand in protecting net neutrality. The public comment system of the FCC website crashed afterward, with the FCC insisting that the incident was caused by multiple DDoS attacks.  ( Mike Coppola | Getty Images )

A part of the Federal Communications Commission website crashed on the evening of May 8, after comedian and TV show host John Oliver invited viewers to take their last stand in protecting net neutrality.

However, according to the FCC, the outage was caused not caused by Oliver's call but rather a distributed denial of service, or DDoS, attack.

John Oliver Calls For Net Neutrality's Last Stand

In an episode of HBO show Last Week Tonight with John Oliver from three years ago, the colorful comedian released a 20-minute segment dedicated to net neutrality. It helped the concept gain support from the public, which led to the FCC enacting regulations that protected how online content was distributed to users.

However, the ascendancy of Donald Trump to the presidency and the appointment of Ajit Pai as the FCC's new chairman has placed net neutrality in a dangerous position. As Pai looks to take down the "mistake" that is the net neutrality concept implemented by the Obama administration, Oliver once again dedicated a part of his show to net neutrality.

"Every Internet group needs to come together like you successfully did three years ago ... gamers; YouTube celebrities; Instagram models; Tom from MySpace, if you're still alive. We need all of you," Oliver said.

"You cannot say you are too busy when 540,000 of you commented on Beyonce's pregnancy announcement."

He called for internet users to come together and let the FCC know of the public support for net neutrality. The show's team even created a quicker way for users to send in their thoughts through the FCC page that receives public comments on the matter. Instead of having to navigate the FCC website, they can simply visit a link and then click on the Express button at the right side to voice their opinion on the matter.

FCC Website Crashes On Alleged DDoS Attacks

Not long after Oliver's segment ended, the public comment system of the FCC crashed. Many believed that this was caused by a massive wave of internet users following Oliver's call as they bombarded the website with their thoughts on keeping the current net neutrality regulations.

However, according to an official statement by the FCC, the delays experienced by consumers in filing comments on its website were caused by multiple DDoS attacks.

"While the comment system remained up and running the entire time, these DDoS events tied up the servers and prevented them from responding to people attempting to submit comments," said the FCC.

The statement, however, leads to even more questions, such as how the FCC determined that the heightened incoming traffic to its website was actually from a DDoS attack and not from a genuine flood of users.

When Gizmodo's Libby Watson asked how the FCC knew that the crash was due to a DDoS attack and not consumers who visited the website after Oliver's segment, spokesperson Mark Wigfield responded with this answer: "Libby, we know it was a DDos attack. We have no way of knowing the motivation."

Fight for the Future, a group supporting net neutrality, expressed its skepticism that the FCC's website was taken down by DDoS attacks. The FCC should make sure that the opinions of consumers are not being discarded in any decision concerning net neutrality, said Evan Greer, the group's campaign director.

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