FRANK BAJAK and BARBARA ORTUTAY
A massive global outage 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.
The company didn’t say what might have caused the outage, which started around 11:40 PM and is still unresolved after more than six hours, but scattered users have reported partial restoration of one service or the other. Websites and apps are often interrupted in varying sizes and durations, but global outages that last for hours are rare.
“This is epic,” said Doug Madory, director of internet analytics for Kentik Inc, a network monitoring and intelligence company. The last major internet outage lasted less than an hour in June, which took many of the world’s best websites offline. In this case, the affected 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 () had problems accessing the Facebook app” and are working to restore access. Regarding the internal failings, Instagram head Adam Mosseri tweeted that it felt like a “snowy day”.
Mike Schroepfer, Facebook’s head of outgoing technology, later tweeted “my sincere apologies” to anyone affected by the outage. He blamed “network problems” and said teams were “working as fast as possible to debug and restore as quickly as possible”.
As of Monday afternoon, there was no evidence of malicious activity being involved. “Nothing we’ve seen about the Facebook outage shows it’s an attack,” tweeted Matthew Prince, CEO of internet infrastructure provider Cloudflare. Prince said the most likely explanation is that Facebook accidentally disabled the internet during maintenance.
Facebook did not respond to messages to comment on the possibility of hacking or malicious activity.
While most of Facebook’s workforce still works remotely, there have been reports of employees working at the company’s Menlo Park, California campus having trouble getting into buildings as the outage renders their security cards useless.
But the impact was far worse for Facebook’s large number of nearly 3 billion users, showing how much the world trusts Facebook and its properties – to run businesses, connect with online communities, log into multiple other websites, and even order food. . .
It also showed that despite the existence of Twitter, Telegram, Signal, TikTok, Snapchat and many other platforms, nothing can easily replace the social network that has effectively turned into critical infrastructure in the last 17 years. The outage came the same day Facebook asked a federal judge to dismiss a revised antitrust complaint against it by the Federal Trade Commission, as it faces fierce competition from other services.
There are certainly online services out there for posting selfies, connecting with fans, or reaching out to elected officials, but those who relied on Facebook to run their business or communicate with friends and family in remote locations found this little consolation.
Kendall Ross, owner of a knitwear brand in Oklahoma City called Knit That, said she has 32,000 followers on her Instagram business page @id.knit.that. Almost all website traffic comes directly from Instagram. Instagram posted a product photo about an hour before it went out. She said she tended to sell two hand-knit pieces for around $300 to $400 after she posted a product photo.
“Today’s outage is frustrating financially,” he said. “It’s also a big wake-up call that social media controls so much of my success in business.”
The reason for the outage remains unclear. Madory said Facebook appears to have deleted core data that tells the rest of the internet how to communicate with its properties. This type of data is part of the Internet’s Domain Name System, a central component that drives its traffic. Without Facebook posting its location on the public internet, apps and web addresses wouldn’t be able to find it.
Rachel Tobac, a hacker and CEO of SocialProof Security, said that many people rely on Facebook, WhatsApp or Instagram as their primary mode of communication, and losing access for so long can make them vulnerable to criminals taking advantage of the outage.
“Without it, they don’t know how to communicate with the people in their lives,” she said. “They are more prone to social engineering because they are so desperate to communicate.” Tobac said that during previous outages, some people received emails that they could restore their social media accounts by clicking on a malicious link that could expose their personal data.
Jake Williams, technical director at cybersecurity firm BreachQuest, said that while bad play cannot be completely ruled out, the outage is highly likely to be an “operational issue” caused by human error.
“It’s very difficult to run a LARGE system, even by Internet standards,” tweeted Steven Bellovin, a computer scientist at Columbia University.
Facebook was in the throes of another major crisis after whistleblower Frances Haugen, a former Facebook product manager, provided The Wall Street Journal with internal documents revealing its awareness of the harms caused by the company’s products and decisions. Haugen went public on CBS’s “60 Minutes” on Sunday and is scheduled to testify before a Senate subcommittee on Tuesday.
Haugen has also filed an anonymous complaint with federal law enforcement, claiming that Facebook’s own research has shown how its research has magnified hate and misinformation and has led to increased polarization. It also showed that the company is aware that Instagram can harm young girls’ mental health.
The Journal’s stories of “Facebook Files” painted a picture of a company focused on growth and self-interest rather than the public good. Facebook has tried to downplay the research. Nick Clegg, the company’s vice president of policy and public relations, wrote in a note to Facebook employees on Friday: “Social media has had a huge impact on society in recent years, and Facebook is often the place where much of this discussion takes place. ”
Meanwhile, Twitter rang out from the company’s main Twitter account, flooding the platform with “hello everyone” as jokes and memes about the Facebook outage. Later, as an unconfirmed screenshot circulated showing facebook.com for sale, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey asked, “How much?” he tweeted.
Mae Anderson, AP business writer in New York, and Matt O’Brien, AP technology writer in Providence, RI contributed to this report.