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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Yeah, the FCC's John Oliver-related "cyber-attack" claims were bullshit

Image for article titled Yeah, the FCC's John Oliver-related "cyber-attack" claims were bullshit
Photo: Alex Wong (Getty Images)

One more drop of bullshit in Ajit Pai’s big ol’ coffee cup of crap this week, with the government’s inspector general’s office releasing a report stating that a cyber-attack the FCC claimed it was hit by last year—and which “coincidentally” lined up with John Oliver calling for his HBO audience to flood the commission’s comments pages with angry opinions on net neutrality—was completely made up. This is per our friends at Gizmodo, who did a deep dive into the OIG’s report, which concludes that, not only did the “cyber-crime” the FCC says it was subjected to almost certainly not happen, but that officers of the organization even lied to members of Congress in an effort to cover up the falsehood, which seems like a pretty extreme reaction to getting needled on TV by someone who co-starred in The Love Guru.


Specifically, the report alleges that the FCC misrepresented a conversation it had with the FBI about the “attack,” as part of an effort to explain why this supposed data assault on a government office wasn’t reported to the Department Of Homeland Security. (The FCC claimed it wasn’t a “significant” cyber-crime, but the FBI agents interviewed said the Bureau doesn’t make those kinds of distinctions.) “At best,” the OIG report concludes, “The published reports were the result of a rush to judgment and the failure to conduct analyses needed to identify the true cause of the disruption to system availability.” 

As such, it seems like we’re back to that old governmental binary: “Malice, or unintentional fuck-up?” The OIG report suggests that, at a bare minimum, the Commission should have alerted its IT department that the Last Week Tonight segment was coming, and would likely mean a bunch of very angry “flash traffic” was probably on its way. On the other hand, Pai’s personal mission to destroy net neutrality—which succeeded late last year—was based at least in part on the idea that he was serving some mandate from the Harlem Shake-loving people, so it doesn’t seem out of the realm of possibility that his organization would make up some bullshit to cover up loud public opposition to the plan, then get caught up in an escalating fecal tide as the lies continued to pile up.