FCC insists hackers, not John Oliver fans and net neutrality proponents, crashed the FCC website Monday

John Oliver on FCC chairman Ajit Pai
(Image credit: Last Week Tonight)

The first time late-night comedian John Oliver asked America's internet fans to flood the Federal Communications Commission website with comments in support of net neutrality, in 2014, they apparently did, and the FCC website quickly crashed from the traffic. Oliver renewed the call on Sunday night's Last Week Tonight, now that new FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is proposing to scale back the hard-fought net neutrality rules; Oliver even created a new site that directs you to the relevant FCC comment section. And sure enough, on Sunday night and early Monday, starting about half an hour after Last Week Tonight aired, the FCC's comment section was unreachable.

But that wasn't due to John Oliver fans, the FCC said Monday. "These were deliberate attempts by external actors to bombard the FCC's comment system with a high amount of traffic to our commercial cloud host," said FCC Chief Information Officer David Bray. "These actors were not attempting to file comments themselves; rather they made it difficult for legitimate commenters to access and file with the FCC."

Not everybody was convinced by the DDoS attack explanation. The timing was just too much of a coincidence, Fight for the Future campaign director Evan Greer told The Washington Post. "The FCC should immediately release its logs to an independent security analyst or major news outlet to verify exactly what happened last night."

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In any case, the public comment section is back online, should you want to express your support or opposition to Pai's push to make net neutrality more of a voluntary proposition. And if you aren't quite sure what the fuss is about, you can watch (or rewatch) the (NSFW) John Oliver explainer below. Peter Weber

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Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a senior editor at TheWeek.com, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter.