by Frank Bazak and Barbara Ortutay
Facebook and its Instagram and WhatsApp platforms are back online after a massive global outage plunged services and businesses and the people who rely on them into chaos for hours.
Facebook said late Monday that “the root cause of this outage was a faulty configuration change” and “there is no evidence that user data was compromised” as a result of the outage.
The company apologized and said it was working to understand more about the cause, which began around 11:40 a.m. Eastern Monday.
Facebook was already in the throes of a separate major crisis when whistleblower Frances Hogen, a former Facebook product manager, provided The Wall Street Journal with internal documents that raised awareness of the damage caused by the company’s products and decisions. exposed. Haugen went public on CBS’s “60 Minutes” program on Sunday and is scheduled to testify before a Senate subcommittee on Tuesday.
Haughan also anonymously filed a complaint with federal law enforcement alleging that Facebook’s own research shows how it fuels hate and misinformation and increases polarization. It also showed that the company was aware that Instagram could harm the mental health of teenage girls.
The journal’s stories, called “The Facebook Files”, painted a picture of a company that focused its own interests on growth and the public good. Facebook has tried to minimize their influence. The company’s vice president of policy and public affairs, Nick Clegg, wrote in a memo to Facebook employees Friday that “social media has had a huge impact on society in recent years, and Facebook is often the place where much of this debate takes place.” Is. “
The outage didn’t exactly reinforce Facebook’s argument that its size and clout confers significant benefits to the world. London-based internet monitoring firm Netblox noted that the company’s plans to integrate the technology behind its platform announced in 2019 had raised concerns about the risks of such a move. While such centralization “gives the company a unified view of users’ internet usage habits,” Netblox said, it also leaves services vulnerable to single points of failure.
“It’s epic,” said Doug Madori, director of internet analysis for Kentik Inc., a network surveillance and intelligence company. The last major Internet outage, which knocked many of the world’s top websites offline in June, lasted less than an hour. In that case 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 trouble accessing the (Facebook) app” and said it was working on restoring access. Regarding the internal failures, Instagram head Adam Mosseri tweeted that it feels like a “snow day”.
Facebook’s outgoing chief technology officer Mike Schroepfer later tweeted, “Sincerely apologies.”
In Monday night’s statement, Facebook blamed the change on routers that coordinate network traffic between data centers. The company said the changes disrupted communications, which “had a massive impact on the way our data centers communicate, causing our services to stop.”
As of Monday afternoon there was no evidence that malicious activity was involved. Matthew Prince, CEO of Internet infrastructure provider Cloudflare, tweeted that “we are not seeing anything related to the shutdown of Facebook services suggesting this was an attack.”
Facebook did not respond to messages for comment about the potential for attack or malicious activity.
While most of Facebook’s workforce is still working remotely, there were reports that employees working at the company’s Menlo Park, Calif., campus had trouble entering buildings because an outage rendered their security badges useless. .
But the effect was far worse for Facebook’s crowd of nearly 3 billion users, reflecting how much the world relies on it and its assets – to run businesses, connect to online communities, and many other websites. To log on and even order food. .
It also showed that despite the presence of Twitter, Telegram, Signal, TikTok, Snapchat and other platforms, nothing can easily replace the social network that has effectively grown into critical infrastructure over the past 17 years. The outage came on the same day Facebook asked a federal judge to dismiss a revised antitrust complaint against it by the Federal Trade Commission because it faces fierce competition from other services.
There are certainly other online services for posting selfies, connecting with fans, or reaching elected officials, but those who rely on Facebook to run their business or to communicate with friends and family in far-flung locations are out there. Yes, they saw it as little consolation.
Kendall Ross, owner of a knitwear brand called Knit That in Oklahoma City, says she has 32,000 followers on her Instagram business page @id.knit.that. Almost all the traffic to their website comes directly from Instagram. About an hour before Instagram was out, he posted a photo of a product. He said he sells about two hand-woven pieces after posting product photos for about $300 to $400.
“The outage is disappointing financially today,” he said. “It’s also a great awakening that social media controls my success in business.”
Rachel Toback, a hacker and CEO of SocialProof Security, said that so many people rely on Facebook, WhatsApp or Instagram as their primary means of communication that losing access for so long could leave them exploited by criminals.
“They don’t know how to approach the people in their lives without it,” she said. “They are more sensitive to social engineering because they are so desperate to communicate.” Toback said that during past outages, some people have received emails promising to restore their social media accounts by clicking on a malicious link that may have exposed their personal data.
Jake Williams, chief technical officer at cybersecurity firm BreachQuest, said that although foul play cannot be ruled out completely, chances were good that the outage was “an operational issue” due to human error.
“What this leads to: Even by Internet standards, distributed systems are too tough, even for the very best,” tweeted Columbia University computer scientist Steven Bellovin.
Meanwhile, Twitter chimed in from the company’s main account on its service, posting a “hello literally everyone,” which flooded the platform in the form of jokes and memes about the Facebook outage. Later, in the form of an unverified screenshot suggesting that the facebook.com address was for sale, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted, “How much?”
AP business writer Mae Anderson in New York and AP technology writer Matt O’Brien in Providence, RI contributed to this report.