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Dems want details on FCC cyberattack after John Oliver critique

Dems want details on FCC cyberattack after John Oliver critique
© The Hill screengrab

Sens. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenSenate Democrats negotiating changes to coronavirus bill No. 2 Senate Democrat shoots down overruling parliamentarian on minimum wage Progressives push White House to overturn wage ruling MORE (D-Ore.) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) are asking the Federal Communications Commission for information about the agency’s claim that it had been the target of cyberattacks after being criticized by late night comedian John Oliver on Sunday.

The two Democrats sent a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai with a list of questions about the FCC’s claim on Monday that its comment filing system had been hit with a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack.

“DDoS attacks against federal agencies are serious — and doubly so if the attack may have prevented Americans from being able to weigh in on your proposal to roll back net neutrality protections,” they wrote. “Any potentially hostile cyber activities that prevent Americans from being able to participate in a fair and transparent process must be treated as a serious issue.”

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On Sunday night, Oliver tore into Pai over his plans to repeal the agency’s net neutrality rules, and urged his audience to file comments in support of the regulations on the FCC’s website.

The site later slowed to a crawl and many attributed it to the flood of responses prompted by Oliver. But the next day, FCC chief information officer David Bray said that the site was disrupted by malicious actors and not legitimate commenters.

Fight for the Future, a pro-net neutrality advocacy group, said that it was skeptical of the claim and suggested that the FCC may be intentionally misleading the public in order to save face in the midst of the backlash.

“The FCC should immediately release its logs to an independent security analyst or major news outlet to verify exactly what happened last night,” Evan Greer, the group’s campaign director, said in a statement.

“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.”

The FCC did not respond to repeated requests for comment about the DDoS claim, but a spokesman acknowledged that they had received the letter from Wyden and Schatz and are in the process of reviewing it.