Facebook comes back online after long outages

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SAN FRANCISCO – Facebook and its family of apps, including Instagram and WhatsApp, were down for hours on Monday, removing a vital communications platform used by billions and showing just how dependent the world has become on a business which is under scrutiny.

Facebook’s apps – which include Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger, and Oculus – started showing error messages around 11:40 a.m. EST, users reported. Within minutes, Facebook was gone from the Internet. The outage lasted more than five hours, before some apps slowly came back to life, although the company warned services would take time to stabilize.

Even so, the impact was far-reaching and severe. Facebook has built itself as a hub platform with messaging, live streaming, virtual reality, and many other digital services. In some countries, such as Myanmar and India, Facebook is synonymous with the Internet. Over 3.5 billion people around the world use Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp to communicate with friends and family, spread political messages, and grow their businesses through advertising and outreach.

Facebook is used to sign in to many other apps and services, resulting in some unexpected domino effects such as people not being able to log into commercial websites or connect to their smart TVs, thermostats and other internet connected devices. .

Tech outages are not uncommon, but seeing so many apps disappear from the world’s largest social media company at the same time was highly unusual. Facebook’s last major outage dates back to 2019, when a technical error plagued its sites for 24 hours, a reminder that a snafu can cripple even the most powerful internet companies.

This time, the cause of the failure remained uncertain. It was unlikely that a cyber attack was the cause, as a hack usually doesn’t affect as many apps at once, said two members of Facebook’s security team, who requested anonymity. Security experts said the problem most likely stemmed from an issue with Facebook’s server computers not allowing people to log into its sites like Instagram and WhatsApp.

Facebook apologized for the outage. “We are sorry”, the company said on twitter after its applications started to become accessible again. “Thank you for being with us. “

The outage added to Facebook’s growing difficulties. For weeks, the company has come under fire for criticism linked to whistleblower Frances Haugen, a former Facebook product manager who has amassed thousands of internal search pages. She has since distributed the cache to the media, lawmakers and regulators, revealing that Facebook was aware of the many damage its services were causing, including that Instagram made teenage girls feel worse about themselves.

The revelations sparked an uproar among regulators, lawmakers and the public. Ms Haugen, who revealed her identity Sunday online and on “60 Minutes,” is scheduled to testify in Congress on Tuesday about Facebook’s impact on young users.

“Today’s blackout has highlighted our reliance on Facebook – and its properties like WhatsApp and Instagram,” said Brooke Erin Duffy, professor of communication at Cornell University. “The abruptness of today’s blackout highlights the staggering level of precariousness that structures our labor economy, which is increasingly mediated by digital technology. “

When the blackout began Monday morning, Facebook and Instagram users quickly took to Twitter to lament and mock their inability to use the apps. The #facebookdown hashtag has also started to catch on. Memes about the incident have proliferated.

But a real toll quickly emerged, as many people around the world depend on apps for their daily lives.

“With the decline of Facebook, we are losing thousands of sales,” said Mark Donnelly, a start-up founder in Ireland who heads HUH Clothing, a mental health-focused fashion brand that uses Facebook and Instagram to reach customers. “It might not seem like much to others, but missing four or five hours of sales could be the difference between paying the electric bill or paying the monthly rent.”

Samir Munir, who owns a food delivery service in Delhi, said he was unable to reach customers or fulfill orders as he runs the business through his Facebook page and takes orders via WhatsApp.

“Everything is down, my whole business is down,” he said.

Douglas Veney, a Cleveland gamer who goes through GoodGameBro and gets paid by viewers and subscribers on Facebook Gaming, said: “It’s tough when your main income platform for a lot of people goes down.” He called the situation “frightening”.

Inside Facebook, workers also rushed because their internal systems stopped working. The company’s global security team “has been made aware of a system outage affecting all of Facebook’s internal systems and tools,” according to an internal memo sent to employees and shared with The New York Times. Those tools included security systems, an internal calendar and planning tools, according to the memo.

Employees reported having difficulty making calls from cellphones issued by work and receiving emails from people outside the company. Facebook’s internal communications platform, Workplace, was also cut, leaving many people unable to do their jobs. Some have turned to other platforms to communicate, including LinkedIn and Zoom as well as Discord chat rooms.

Some Facebook employees who had returned to work in the office were also unable to enter buildings and conference rooms because their digital badges no longer worked. Security engineers said they could not assess the outage because they could not access areas of the servers.

Facebook’s global security operations center determined that the outage was “HIGH risk to people, MODERATE risk to assets, and HIGH risk to Facebook’s reputation,” the company note said.

A small team of employees were quickly dispatched to Facebook’s data center in Santa Clara, Calif., To attempt a “manual reset” of the company’s servers, according to an internal memo.

Several Facebook employees called the outage the equivalent of a “snowy day,” a sentiment that was publicly echoed by Instagram chief Adam Mosseri.

In the early days of Facebook, the site experienced occasional breakdowns as millions of new users flocked to the network. Over the years, it has spent billions of dollars expanding its infrastructure and services, creating huge data centers in cities such as Prineville, Oregon and Fort Worth.

The company has also been trying to integrate the underlying technical infrastructure of Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram for several years.

John Graham-Cumming, chief technology officer of Cloudflare, a web infrastructure company, said in an interview that Monday’s issue was most likely a misconfiguration of Facebook’s servers.

Computers convert websites such as facebook.com to digital Internet Protocol addresses, using a system that resembles a phone’s address book. Facebook’s problem was like removing the phone numbers of people under their name from their address book, making them impossible to call, he said. Because Cloudflare directs traffic to Facebook, he realized the outage early on and saw the extent of the incident.

“It was as if Facebook had just said, ‘Goodbye, we’re leaving now,’” Graham-Cumming said.

Ryan mac, Nicole perlroth and Kellen browning contributed reports.



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