After a catastrophic global outage that threw the services, as well as the businesses and people who rely on them, into chaos for hours, Facebook and its Instagram and WhatsApp platforms are back up.
“The fundamental cause of this outage was an erroneous configuration update,” Facebook stated late Monday, adding that “there is no evidence that user data was compromised as a result” of the outage.
The firm issued an apology and stated that it is investigating the problem, which began at 11:40 a.m. Eastern Monday.
Facebook was already dealing with a significant issue after whistleblower Frances Haugen, a former Facebook product manager, leaked internal papers to The Wall Street Journal, revealing the company’s awareness of the harms caused by its products and decisions. Haugen made his first public appearance on CBS’s “60 Minutes” show on Sunday, and he’ll testify before a Senate subcommittee on Tuesday.
Haugen had also filed anonymous complaints with federal law enforcement, arguing that Facebook’s own research demonstrates how it amplifies hate and misinformation, resulting in more polarization. It also demonstrated that the corporation was aware that Instagram can have a negative impact on the mental health of adolescent girls.
The “Facebook Files” revelations in the Journal created an image of a firm that prioritized growth and its own interests over the public good. Facebook has attempted to downplay their significance. “Social media has had a major impact on society in recent years, and Facebook is often a site where much of this debate plays out,” said Nick Clegg, the company’s vice president of policy and public affairs, in a message to Facebook staff on Friday.
The outage didn’t help Facebook’s case that its scale and clout bring significant global benefits. Netblocks, a London-based internet surveillance service, stated that the company’s plans to combine the technology underlying its platforms, which were disclosed in 2019, have generated worries about the consequences of doing so. While centralization “provides the corporation with a consolidated view of users’ internet usage habits,” according to Netblocks, it also exposes the services to single points of failure.
“This is incredible,” said Doug Madory, director of internet analysis at Kentik Inc, a network monitoring and analytics firm. In June, a huge internet outage that took down many of the world’s most popular websites lasted less than an hour. Fastly, the troubled content-delivery business in one case, blamed a software flaw caused by a customer who changed a configuration for the problem.
Facebook’s only public statement for hours was a tweet acknowledging that “some people are having problems accessing (the) Facebook app” and promising to restore service. Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri said it feels like a “snow day” because of the internal failings.
Facebook’s outgoing chief technical officer, Mike Schroepfer, later tweeted “sincere apologies.”
Facebook blamed the modifications on routers that coordinate network traffic between data centers in a statement released Monday night. The changes, according to the business, caused “a cascade effect on the way our data centers communicate, bringing our services to a halt.”
As of Monday afternoon, there was no proof that nefarious behavior was involved. “Nothing we’re seeing connected to the Facebook services outage implies it was an assault,” Matthew Prince, CEO of internet infrastructure provider Cloudflare, tweeted.
Facebook did not respond to inquiries seeking comment on the hack or the potential for nefarious conduct.
While much of Facebook’s personnel is still working remotely, employees on the company’s Menlo Park, California, headquarters reported having problems entering buildings since their security badges were rendered useless by the outage.
However, for many of Facebook’s roughly 3 billion users, the impact was far greater, demonstrating how much the world has come to rely on it and its assets – to operate businesses, connect with online communities, log on to various other websites, and even purchase groceries.
It also demonstrated that, despite the presence of platforms such as Twitter, Telegram, Signal, TikTok, Snapchat, and a slew of others, nothing can simply replace the social network that has effectively matured into crucial infrastructure over the past 17 years. The interruption occurred on the same day that Facebook requested a federal judge to dismiss the Federal Trade Commission’s updated antitrust complaint against it, claiming that it confronts fierce competition from other services.
Although there are other online services for posting selfies, connecting with fans, and contacting elected officials, those who rely on Facebook to run their businesses or communicate with friends and family in far-flung places saw this as little consolation.
Kendall Ross, the proprietor of the Knit That knitwear brand in Oklahoma City, said his Instagram business profile @id.knit.that had 32,000 followers. Instagram accounts for nearly all of his website traffic. About an hour before Instagram went down, he shared a product photo. He claims that after posting a product shot, he usually sells roughly two hand-knit pieces for $300 to $400.
“Today’s outage is financially frustrating,” he stated. “It’s also a huge wake-up call that social media is responsible for so much of my business success.”
Because so many individuals rely on Facebook, WhatsApp, or Instagram as their major means of communication, missing access for an extended period of time might leave them vulnerable to criminals exploiting the outage, according to Rachel Tobac, a hacker and CEO of SocialProof Security.
“Without it, they don’t know how to contact the people in their lives,” she explained. “Because they’re so desperate to communicate, they’re more vulnerable to social engineering.” During past disruptions, some customers, according to Tobac, got emails promising to restore their social network accounts by clicking on a fraudulent link that may disclose their personal information.
While foul play cannot be totally ruled out, Jake Williams, chief technology officer of cybersecurity firm BreachQuest, believes the outage is most likely due to “an operational issue” caused by human error.
“What it boils down to is that maintaining a LARGE, even by internet standards, distributed system is really difficult, even for the best,” Columbia University computer scientist Steven Bellovin wrote on Twitter.
Meanwhile, as jokes and memes about the Facebook outage filled the network, Twitter responded from the company’s main account, saying “hey literally everyone.” “How much?” asked Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey after an unsubstantiated screenshot stating the facebook.com address was for sale surfaced.