Facebook fights global blackout and whistleblower revelations
Washington. Facebook struggled with dueling bouts on Monday as it faced a full-scale outage of its dominant social network for seven hours, and battled damning revelations from a whistleblower.
Many long-standing fears and criticisms of the platform appear to have been substantiated by Facebook’s own research, which ex-employee Frances Haugen passed on to authorities and the Wall Street Journal.
But as U.S. Senators braced for her much-anticipated testimony on Tuesday on the documents, Facebook struggled to end an hour-long outage that potentially affected tens of millions of users on its platforms, including Instagram and WhatsApp.
Tracker Downdetector said it received 10.6 million reports of issues ranging from the United States and Europe to Colombia and Singapore, with issues first appearing around 3:45 p.m. GMT.
About seven hours later, services began to come back online.
“There is no doubt that the Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram services will take longer to come online, but at 10:28 pm UTC, Facebook appears to be reconnected to the global internet and DNS is working again,” the company said. Cloudfare Web Security Report in a Monday Night blog post.
Facebook has not communicated on the possible cause of the outage, but cybersecurity experts noted that they had found signs that the online routes that led people to the social giant were being disrupted.
“Facebook and related properties have vanished from the Internet in a flurry of BGP updates,” tweeted John Graham-Cumming, chief technology officer at Cloudflare.
During the outage, Mike Schroepfer, the company’s chief technology officer, tweeted his “sincere apologies to all currently affected by the outages in Facebook-powered services.”
Users trying to access Facebook in affected areas during the blackout were greeted with the following message: “Something went wrong. We are working on it and will fix it ASAP. “
Facebook has strongly pushed back outrage over its practices and impact, but this is only the latest crisis to hit the company.
For years, U.S. lawmakers have threatened to regulate Facebook and other social media giants in response to criticism that platforms trample on privacy, provide a megaphone for dangerous disinformation, and harm the well-being of young people.
After years of criticism directed at social media, without major legislative revisions, some experts were skeptical of the change to come.
“This is a situation where there is going to be a lot of smoke and a lot of fury, but not a lot of action,” said Mark Hass, professor at Arizona State University.
“It’s going to have to come down to the platforms, feel the pressure from their users, feel the pressure from their employees,” he added, noting that the authorities will not be able to effectively regulate content.
Haugen, a 37-year-old data scientist from Iowa, worked for companies such as Google and Pinterest, but said in an interview with CBS news show “60 Minutes” that Facebook was “substantially worse” than anything she had seen before.
Facebook’s vice president of policy and global affairs Nick Clegg vehemently rebuffed claims that its platforms are “toxic” to teens, days after a tense several-hour congressional hearing in which U.S. lawmakers have roasted the company over its impact on the mental health of young users.
Senators put the social media giant’s Antigone Davis to the test last week over damning reports that Facebook’s own research warned of potential harm.
Davis told lawmakers that a survey of teenagers on 12 serious issues like anxiety, sadness and eating disorders showed Instagram was generally helpful to them.
Still, Senator Richard Blumenthal read aloud excerpts from company documents that he said were leaked to lawmakers by a Facebook whistleblower who directly contradicted him.
“Substantial evidence suggests that experiences on Instagram and Facebook worsen body dissatisfaction,” he said, adding that the finding was not a complaint from a disgruntled worker but research by the company.