The massive global blackout that plunged Facebook, its Instagram and WhatsApp platforms, and many people who rely heavily on these services – including Facebook’s own workforce – into chaos on Monday is gradually dissipating.
Facebook said Monday night it was working to restore access to its services and was “happy to report that they are coming back online now.” The company apologized and thanked its users for agreeing. But fixing it wasn’t as easy as flipping a proverbial switch. For some users, WhatsApp worked for a while and then didn’t. For others, Instagram worked but Facebook didn’t, etc.
Facebook did not specify what could have caused the outage, which began around 11:40 a.m. ET and still has not been fixed more than six hours later.
Facebook was already in the throes of a separate major crisis after whistleblower Frances Haugen, a former Facebook product manager, provided the Wall Street Journal with internal documents that exposed the company’s awareness of the damage caused by its products and decisions . Haugen went public with CBS’s “60 Minutes” show on Sunday and is expected to testify before a Senate subcommittee on Tuesday.
Haugen had also anonymously filed complaints with federal law enforcement, alleging that Facebook’s own research showed how this amplifies hatred and misinformation and leads to increased polarization. It also showed that the company was aware that Instagram can harm the mental health of teenage girls.
The Journal’s articles, titled âThe Facebook Files,â paint a portrait of a business focused on growth and its own interests above the public good. Facebook has tried to minimize their impact. Nick Clegg, the company’s vice president of policy and public affairs, wrote to Facebook employees on Friday in a note that âSocial media has had a big impact on society in recent years, and Facebook is often a place where much of this debate takes place. “
The blackout didn’t exactly bolster Facebook’s argument that its size and influence offers significant benefits to the world. London-based internet monitoring company Netblocks noted that the company’s plans to integrate the technology behind its platforms – announced in 2019 – had raised concerns about the risks of such a move. While such centralization “gives the business a unified view of users’ Internet usage patterns,” Netblocks said, it also leaves services vulnerable to single points of failure.
âIt’s epic,â said Doug Madory, director of internet analytics for Kentik Inc, a network surveillance and intelligence company. The last major internet blackout, which took many of the world’s largest websites offline in June, lasted less than an hour. The stricken content delivery company, Fastly, blamed a software bug triggered by a customer who changed a setting.
For hours, Facebook’s only public comment was a tweet in which it acknowledged that “some people are having difficulty accessing (the) Facebook app” and said it was working on restoring access. Regarding internal failures, Instagram chief Adam Mosseri tweeted that it looked like a “snowy day.”
Mike Schroepfer, exiting Facebook chief technology officer, then tweeted “his sincere apologies” to everyone affected by the blackout. He blamed the network issues and said the teams “were working as fast as possible to debug and restore as quickly as possible.”
There was no evidence Monday afternoon that malicious activity was involved. Matthew Prince, CEO of internet infrastructure provider Cloudflare, tweeted that “nothing we see about the outage of Facebook services suggests it was an attack.” Prince said the most likely explanation was that Facebook mistakenly removed itself from the Internet during maintenance.
Facebook did not respond to posts commenting on the attack or the possibility of malicious activity.
While a large portion of Facebook’s workforce still works remotely, it has been reported that employees working at the Menlo Park, Calif. Campus have difficulty entering buildings because of the blackout. had made their security badges useless.
But the impact was far worse for a multitude of Facebook’s nearly 3 billion users, showing just how much the world has come to rely on him and his properties – to run businesses, connect with communities in online, log into several other websites, and even order food. .
It also showed that despite the presence of Twitter, Telegram, Signal, TikTok, Snapchat and a host of other platforms, nothing can easily replace the social network which, over the past 17 years, has indeed evolved into infrastructure. critical. The outage came the same day Facebook asked a federal judge that a revised antitrust complaint filed against it by the Federal Trade Commission be dismissed because it faces fierce competition from other services.
There are certainly other services online for posting selfies, connecting with fans, or contacting elected officials, but those who rely on Facebook to run their businesses or connect with friends and family in remote locations have seen this as little consolation.
Kendall Ross, owner of a knitwear brand called Knit That in Oklahoma City, said he has 32,000 followers on his professional Instagram page @ id.knit.that. Almost all of his website traffic comes directly from Instagram. He posted a photo of the product about an hour before Instagram was released. He said he tended to sell around two hand-knitted pieces after posting a product photo for around $ 300 to $ 400.
âToday’s blackout is financially frustrating,â he said. âIt’s also a huge realization that social media controls a lot of my business success. “
The cause of the failure remains uncertain. Madory said Facebook appears to have removed basic data that tells the rest of the internet how to communicate with its properties. This data is part of the Internet’s domain name system, a central element that directs its traffic. Without Facebook broadcasting its location on the public Internet, apps and web addresses simply couldn’t locate it.
So many people depend on Facebook, WhatsApp or Instagram as their primary modes of communication that losing access for so long can make them vulnerable to criminals who profit from the outage, said Rachel Tobac, hacker and CEO of SocialProof Security.
âThey don’t know how to contact the people in their life without it,â she said. “They’re more sensitive to social engineering because they’re so desperate to communicate.” Tobac has said in previous outages that some people have received emails promising to restore their social media accounts by clicking on a malicious link that may expose their personal data.
Jake Williams, chief technical officer of cybersecurity firm BreachQuest, said that while foul play could not be completely ruled out, there was a good chance the outage was “an operational problem” caused by human error.
âIn summary: Running a BIG distributed system, even by Internet standards, is very difficult, even for the best,â tweeted Steven Bellovin, computer scientist at Columbia University.
Twitter, meanwhile, rang from the company’s main account on its service, posting “Hello literally everyone” as jokes and memes about the Facebook outage flooded the platform. Later, as an unverified screenshot suggesting the facebook.com address was for sale circulated, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted “how much?” “