Fight for the Future


What is the FCC hiding? Thousands call for the agency to provide evidence of alleged DDoS attacks that silenced net neutrality supporters

Posted 07:39 EDT on May 11, 2017
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, May 11, 2017
Contact: Evan Greer, press@fightforthefuture.org, 978-852-6457

Fight for the Future has launched a petition calling for the FCC to release its logs to an independent analyst and guarantee that all comments will be counted

Thousands of people have signed a petition calling for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to come clean about alleged DDoS attacks that the agency claims occurred at the exact same time that comments would have started flooding in from John Oliver’s viral Last Week Tonight segment about net neutrality on Sunday night.

The petition echos Fight for the Future’s demand that the FCC 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 public wants to know what the FCC is hiding,” said Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight for the Future, “The future of the Internet is too important to be decided without transparency and adequate input from the public. They’ve been lying to us for weeks about net neutrality, it’s very difficult to accept their claims about DDoS attacks when they have provided zero evidence to support them.”

The FCC also claims that they experienced a similar attack after Oliver’s segment on the issue in 2014. The agency has provided zero proof for either of these claims, in the face of the much more likely explanation: the FCC’s system is unprepared to handle large amounts of comments, and turned away tens of thousands of people trying to comment in support of net neutrality.

Gigi Sohn, a former senior staffer at the FCC, said “The official FCC position in 2014 was not that there was a DDoS attack following the John Oliver segment, because there was no clear evidence that such an attack occurred.”

Here’s what we know:

  • The FCC’s servers went down again on Monday night around 8:30pm EST, shortly after the John Oliver segment re-aired on HBO.

  • They have continued to show errors this week. 

  • Former FCC employees deny FCC CIO David Bray’s claim that the agency was hit with a DDoS attack after the John Oliver segment in 2014 and say there was never any evidence of such an attack (see above.)

  • The FCC’s servers were having a variety of problems and went down repeatedly as a result of net neutrality comments in the weeks leading up to the John Oliver segment on Monday. Emails from FCC employees sent to Fight for the Future confirm that they were having “server issues.”

  • In 2014 and 2015 the FCC’s website crashed several times under the weight of net neutrality comments from the public.

  • It can be difficult to distinguish a DDoS attack from a large amount of traffic coming from legitimately concerned citizens looking to file a comment. If the FCC was able to determine that this was a malicious attack, they must have some proof of that, and they should immediately disclose that to the public to verify their claims.

  • The FCC now claims that they have upgraded their site to a “cloud service,” which is consistent with our suspicion that their servers simply buckled under the pressure and they are only now upgrading them, likely after silencing large numbers of pro-net neutrality commenters.

Here is our original statement, which can be attributed to campaign director, Evan Greer, (pronouns: she/hers)

“The FCC’s statement today raises a lot of questions, and the agency should act immediately to ensure that voices of the public are not being silenced as it considers a move that would affect every single person that uses the Internet.

There are two possible scenarios and they are both concerning:

  1. FCC is being intentionally misleading, and trying to claim that the surge in traffic from large numbers of people attempting to comment following John Oliver’s segment amounts to a “DDoS” attack, in order to let themselves off the hook for essentially silencing large numbers of people by not having a properly functioning site to receive comments from the public about an important issue, or

  2. Someone actually did DDoS the FCC’s site at the exact same time as John Oliver’s segment, in order to actively prevent people from commenting in support of keeping the Title II net neutrality rules that millions of people fought for in 2015.

Given Ajit Pai’s open hostility toward net neutrality, and the telecom industry’s long history of astroturfing and paying shady organizations to do their dirty work, either of these scenarios should be concerning for anyone who cares about government transparency, free speech, and the future of the Internet.

The FCC should immediately release its logs to an independent security analyst or major news outlet to verify exactly what happened last night. The public deserves to know, and the FCC has a responsibility to maintain a functioning website and ensure that every member of the public who wants to submit a comment about net neutrality has the ability to do so. Anything less is a subversion of our democracy.”

Fight for the Future was instrumental in the massive grassroots campaign that successfully pushed the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to enact the strongest net neutrality protections in US. history last year. They built the page BattleForTheNet.com, which was responsible for more than ¼ of all the net neutrality comments received by the FCC during its feedback process, and were behind the Internet Slowdown protest, which was supported by more than 40,000 websites including some of the largest on the Web like Kickstarter, Etsy, Netflix, and Tumblr.  

The group also helped take the fight for net neutrality into the streets with creative protest campaigns like Occupy the FCC and the nationwide Internet Emergency protests.

Fight for the Future is best known for their role in the massive online protests against SOPA, the Internet censorship bill, and continues to organize many of the largest protests in the history of the Internet. Over the summer, they organized the high profile Rock Against the TPP tour featuring many celebrities and well known musicians. Learn more at FightFortheFuture.org

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