FCC blames DDoS attacks for site troubles, not John Oliver

After the site suffers slowdowns, the agency reveals the big cause: "external actors." It wasn't because of the HBO comedian.

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Anne Dujmovic is a senior editor at CNET. Her areas of focus include the climate crisis, democracy and inclusive language. She believes in the power of great journalism and art, and the magic of tardigrades.
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Watch this: 'Last Week Tonight' takes on the FCC, crashes its site (again)

It wasn't John Oliver's fault after all that the FCC's website suffered major slowdowns overnight Sunday and into Monday. The FCC said the trouble was because of multiple DDoS attacks.

"Beginning on Sunday night at midnight, our analysis reveals that the FCC was subject to multiple distributed denial-of-service attacks," the Federal Communications Commission said in a statement Monday. "These were deliberate attempts by external actors to bombard the FCC's comment system." DDoS attacks flood a website with useless traffic, causing it to slow down or crash.


The FCC says it was hit by DDoS attacks overnight. Earlier reports blamed HBO's John Oliver.

Last Week Tonight/YouTube screenshot by Anne Dujmovic/CNET

During his HBO show "Last Week Tonight" on Sunday, host John Oliver encouraged people to go to the agency's website and leave comments about how they feel about the FCC's plan to rewrite net neutrality rules. Initial reports about the FCC site crashing suggested Oliver was directly to blame.

This isn't the first time the FCC's site has encountered problems following one of Oliver's rants on net neutrality -- the concept that all internet content should be delivered without preference or discrimination. Three years ago, the FCC's online public-comment system stumbled under heavy traffic after Oliver rallied internet's trolls to voice their online support for net neutrality principles that became law under the Obama administration. Ajit Pai, who President Donald Trump appointed chairman of the FCC in January, aims to undo the net neutrality regulations, which has opened the issue up for debate all over again.

The FCC's statement went on to say:

"These actors were not attempting to file comments themselves; rather they made it difficult for legitimate commenters to access and file with the FCC. 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. We have worked with our commercial partners to address this situation and will continue to monitor developments going forward."