The FCC—besides not letting Eminem be—is in charge of regulating the nation’s communications infrastructure. Under their new leadership of Ajit Pai, the commission has decided to repeal the principle of “net neutrality,” a rule which ensured internet providers treated all websites the same when it came to access and speed. By doing so, opponents fear, the internet will become less “open” as websites with deeper pockets pay for faster service, while providers “throttle” smaller competitors.
The topic has been much discussed here and elsewhere, with pretty much everyone—besides individuals representing corporate interests—against the repeal.
One of the most vocal critics in the media has been John Oliver, who has twice—on his weekly show, “Last Week Tonight”—urged viewers to send comments to the FCC voicing their displeasure with the commission’s decision.
Both times he did so, the FCC’s website crashed, in what was seemingly a response to the influx of messages overwhelming its servers. Yet, after the latter of the two (one was in 2014, the other 2017), the FCC released statements blaming the crash instead on a targeted DDoS attack (short for distributed denial-of-service, this references an attack in which a system is flooded with enough traffic to render it bunk).
However, recently revealed internal emails (due to an FOIA request) show that the FCC in fact had little evidence that the shutdown was caused by a DDoS. More likely, the commission was trying to save face by pretending that they had not been overwhelmed by negative comments from the same citizens who, after all, they work for.
The man in the middle of it all is David Bray, the FCC’s CIO from 2013-17.
In addition to blaming the 2017 shutdown on DDoS attacks (a claim which would immediately come under fire from skeptical internet security experts), Bray also told reporters (acting as an anonymous source) in emails that the 2014 shutdown had also been the result of a DDoS, a fact which he claimed had been omitted because the FCC Chairman at the time, Tom Wheeler, was concerned that acknowledging it would encourage copycat attacks. This claim, former FCC employee Gigi Sohn told Gizmodo, is “just flat out false.”
“The security team was in agreement that this event was not an attack,” a former FCC security contractor also told Gizmodo, contradicting Bray’s claims to the media.
In a public response to the story on Medium, Bray continually refers to his actions as “non-partisan,” clearly disturbed by claims that he abused his bureaucratic position for political gain. However, in explaining his conclusions on the 2017 incident—that it was a DDoS and not an influx of messages from angry citizens—Bray offers little evidence, saying:
“When the events of 08 May 2017 happened, my quick analysis of the ratio of 35,000 API requests per minute we were receiving per minute, relative to the number of 90,000 comments being filed in the first half of the day, indicated that ratio to be extraordinarily high and lopsided…Separate from actual people wanting to comment, I was concerned we were also being spammed by something automated. If this continued, it might deny system resources from actual people wanting to comment on the high-profile issue. This was my biggest concern.”
In other words, because there was an influx of comments, he assumed they must be automated, failing to consider—or even mentioning—the fact that John Oliver was telling viewers at that time to write in to the commissions comment board. He ended on a self-congratulatory note once again displaying his non-partisanship:
“For those of us who join public service as non-partisans, most of us do so out of a sense of service to the public that transcends the politics of each party.”
Is it just me, or does the lady doth protest too much?