FCC Comment Servers Crash After Mass Appeal to “Internet Trolls”
The short story: the Federal Communications Commissions website crashed after a flood of young people complained about the perceived unfair properties of net neutrality. Over 30,000 complaints have been filed in the past two days, quadrupling the numbers the website maintained Sunday night.
This reality factors in to a long-standing battle to get the millenial generation involved in the democratic machine. Politicians try a lot of different strategies to lure young people into engaging with the American political system, and are frequently thwarted – after the Barack Obama's groundbreaking presidential victory in 2008, his re-election was a result of far less youth votes in 2012, according to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement. Why is this?
The art of getting people to care
The formula for getting any Internet consumer's attention is simple – incentive and appeal. This criticism isn't specific to millenials, but to young people throughout history lured in by the idea of making a difference and taking part in something larger than themselves. However, the government's consistent flip-flopping on net neutrality and Internet freedom along with other major world issues hasn't turned the young people of today to anger – it's turned their backs and desire to engage almost entirely.
All things considered, the amount of information and vapid data thrown at an Internet user in the space of a day is astounding, and it takes something really special to stand out. Even in the past five years, the game has changed again – even if a brand or system can make an impact with a viral video or major statement, it's unlikely that it will carry over into the next week's news parade. Comedian John Oliver, formerly of The Daily Show's satire mega-brand, was able to accomplish what many think tanks couldn't with a twelve-minute segment that both informed and took down the FCC's rejection of net neutrality on Sunday night, and the results are already tangible.
The FCC quietly opened a line of communication open to citizens for complaints regarding proposed moves in net neutrality on May 15, and several thousand enraged Americans posted their thoughts. On Oliver's takedown on his satirical HBO show "Last Week Tonight," he made a theatrical point to appeal to "Internet trolls," the bullies of the cybersphere that usually remain in the recesses of message board and YouTube comments.
"For once in your life, we need you to harness that anger, that badly spelled bile," Oliver teased to rancorous applause.
A question of bias
This broadcast, which aired Sunday night and was on the front page of every trendy Internet outlet by Monday morning, prompted nearly 40,000 new comments on the FCC webpage, and inadvertently crashed their server.
"We're still experiencing technical difficulties with our comment system. Thanks for your patience as we work to resolve the issues," the department hastily posted from their Twitter page on June 2, the evening following Oliver's initial appeal
Though "Last Week Tonight's" successful broadcast is a victory for youth engagement and political satire, it remains to be seen whether this big move will harbor any negative fallout. Since only one side of the net neutrality debate was touched upon (with sweeping phrases like "boring," "egregious," and "Internet F***ery" to boot), it's difficult to say whether the consumers of this information will seek out any other perspectives on the issue. If recent comments to the now-resurrected FCC complaints page is any indication, such may not be the case.
"I equate the government with small children having busy little fingers screwing up things that's none of their business," one complainer posted.
This is where the current net neutrality debate stands – the country is finally getting some engagement, but still fails to be fully informed.