WhatsApp, Instagram, and Facebook Services went down for more than 6-hours, leaving around 2 billion of its users deprived of its huge communications platform. According to reports, Facebook and its owned apps stopped working between 11.40 AM and 6 PM (EST) on Monday, 4th October.
The tech giant claimed in a blog post that a faulty configuration change was the root cause of the outage. However, it did not specify whether the change was planned or who executed it. Also, the employees of the company told the media that the outage was caused by some internal mistake in routing the traffic to FB systems. They said the internal communication tools and some other resources that depended on the same network, failed to work that also contributed to the error.
Critics and security experts discussed major problems associated with technology that is supporting Facebook’s products and services. Due to such problems, the platform has suffered several similar instances, just like in 2019, when outages lasted for more than 24 hours. At that time Facebook also said that a “server configuration change” caused the problem.
Facebook Services Went Down Like Dominoes
Most of the Facebook Services issues this time were related to Domain Name System (DNS). It works like a phone book for the internet. Whenever users enter a web address like facebook.com, then the PC changes it to an IP address, a series of numbers used to access the data required to open pages the users want to visit.
When FB was down, this process was not working. The PC kept on searching for the numbers but could not find any. Here, FB servers should have provided the number, but its phone book was blank due to a DNS error. So, whoever wanted to visit FB saw an error code on their respective browsers. Some users were still able to use some FB apps but they did not work properly. For example, they only displayed existing content on WhatsApp and Instagram (already downloaded), but could not refresh new content.
The issue caused a cascading effect and brought down multiple services. Internet infrastructure company Cloudflare described it as if someone pulled the plugs off of FB’s data centers and disconnected it from the internet. Nearly 124,000 outages were reported on Facebook, around 97,000 on Instagram, and 33,000 on WhatsApp.
How Much Loss Did Facebook Suffer?
The outage of Facebook services has always proved detrimental for the businesses that rely on the platform. At one point the company lost its market share by 5.5% in a single afternoon; and on the other, the wealth of founder Mark Zuckerberg plunged by 7 billion USD within hours. The tech giant’s market value was 965.8 billion USD on Friday, Oct 1, and came down to 915.1 billion USD after the outage.
It is also to be noted that businesses dependent on Facebook traffic also suffered loss as the apps requiring FB login also did not work. Mobile games that usually ask to log in through FB, started to inform their users on Twitter.
Heavy traffic diverted towards other platforms like Twitter, TikTok, and Snapchat after WhatsApp, Facebook, and Instagram were down. It came to a point when these alternatives apps went slow due to overwhelming traffic.
Outage Comes a Day Before Whistleblower Goes Live
The real problem may not be clear but one thing is for sure that Facebook manages its own DNS so the issue is most likely caused from within. It could mean that the relevant IP directions to the respective web browsers may have been intentionally or unintentionally removed. Concerned parties argued about a possible cyber-attack but there was no evidence suggesting that. Facebook however is still going through various types of crises if not cyber-attack. The most prominent one is Frances Haugen, who recently revealed that she was the whistleblower behind those reports in The Wall Street Journal that intensified the political pressure on Facebook.
Haugen made her first appearance on Live TV on 5th October, a day after Facebook services went down. She has made damning accusations on the tech giant and related it to a tobacco company that sold its products regardless of its health damages. The whistleblower was an employee at FB, working as a project manager on civic integrity. She said the document she leaked contained evidence that FB prioritized profit over ethics multiple times.
Based on Haugen’s documents, lawmakers called her to testify whether FB was aware of the damage it was causing to the mental health of teenagers. Research suggested that 30% of young girls felt like Instagram was making them hate their bodies more. Moreover, she alleged that during the US elections 2020, Facebook rushed to reinstate old algorithms that focused more on engagement and turned it back to normal after the elections were over. Haugen associated this move with the January 6 attack on Capitol Hill and called it a betrayal of democracy.
Facebook denied all allegations without further detail and reportedly on 4th October, asked a federal judge to scrap the anti-trust lawsuit by Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that pressured FB to sell WhatsApp and Instagram.