As any bully can tell you, if you want them to be afraid, you have to remind them occasionally of the last beating. This is what Google just did through its surrogates who would very much like everyone to believe they “crashed” the regulations.gov website that hosted the webforms for public comments on the Copyright Office’s public consultation on the effectiveness of the DMCA “notice and shakedown”. And how do we know this? A statement from the Office of Management and Budget in the White House that runs the site?
No, we know it from what is apparently a Google-funded surrogate’s press release reported as news by the Torrent Freak blog that once again is trying to whip up a frenzy over something that’s not there.
Make no mistake: There’s been no official confirmation from the Google White House that anything happened in the way of an attack on regulations.gov (I know this because I asked for a comment from OMB and got nothing back so far), but there has been pretty clear and convincing evidence of what Google intended to have happen. In furtherance of their own corporate self-interest, Google brought its surrogates to bear at YouTube and through its front group to try to crash regulations.gov.
Realize that regulations.gov is not just a site devoted to public comment about the DMCA. That site is part of the eRulemaking project for the entire federal government.
The eRulemaking Initiative
In October 2002, the eRulemaking Program was established as a cross-agency E-Gov initiative under Section 206 of the 2002 E-Government Act (H.R. 2458/S. 803) and is based within the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The eRulemaking Management Office (PMO) leads the eRulemaking Program and is responsible for the development and implementation of the public facing website, Regulations.gov.
The vision of the eRulemaking Program is to enable the public ease of access to participate in a high quality, efficient, and open rulemaking process. The primary goals of the Program are:
- Increase public access to federal regulatory materials
- Increase public participation and their understanding of the federal rulemaking process
- Improve federal agencies efficiency and effectiveness in rulemaking development
So Google thought that their corporate interests in this issue were so great that they should just be able to pull down (or try to pull down) the website devoted to whole-of-government public access to the regulatory process by a calculated and cynical attack on a public asset–no doubt at no small cost to the taxpayer.
If Google were truly interested in stimulating public comment on the DMCA issue–which it has every right to do–it had months–months–in which to do this. Why did they do it at the last minute using a method that was calculated to harm the speech rights of others on the full panoply of issues on the regulations.gov website? And then have their surrogate issue a press release about doing so?
Maybe because there was no official confirmation that anything had happened other than network operators taking a closer look at what appeared to be a DDOS attack on U.S. government servers. And if that’s true that there was no crash, then you see the point–someone was trying to make you think there was a crash when none occurred. But perhaps they were trying to crash the government servers.
Now imagine for a moment that the company is Phillip Morris and the regulations related to advertising to children. How would you feel about the Joe Camel Channel encouraging an attack on regulations.gov by Fight for the Future of Smoking?
If this all seems far fetched to you, trust me, it’s not. I highly recommend this TedX talk by veteran investigative news reporter Sharyl Attkisson on “Astroturf and the Manipulation of Media Messages”.