More than 3.5 billion people around the world communicate through Facebook and its collection of apps like Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger, and Oculus. But for about six hours yesterday, no one was using these platforms as Facebook disappeared from the Internet. Company representatives said that this outage occurred when “backbone routers that coordinate network traffic” failed and brought services completely to a halt. The total shutdown meant that Facebook could not remotely reset its network, requiring it to send out a team of engineers to one of its data centers for a manual reset.
In the meantime, the outage disrupted the lives of millions of people and businesses across the globe that depend on Facebook daily. For instance, shop owners in Turkey could not sell their products without the company’s platforms while newspapers in Mexico that publish directly through Facebook remained silent. The crash also had a negative impact on nonprofits, such as an organization in Colombia that uses WhatsApp to connect victims of gender-based violence with vital services. Other countries like India and Myanmar obtain nearly all of their Internet capabilities through Facebook. “Today’s outage brought our reliance on Facebook — and its properties like WhatsApp and Instagram — into sharp relief,” said Cornell University communications professor Brooke Erin Duffy.
This world-spanning technical glitch is just one of many troubles that Facebook has had to deal with recently. In perhaps its most pressing current problem, a former employee turned into a whistleblower against the social networking giant and gave a trove of internal documents to the SEC. These documents revealed studies conducted by Facebook showing that Instagram contributes to negative body-image issues in young women while also detailing the company’s lackluster two-tier justice system. The whistleblower Frances Haugen testified in front of a congressional committee today about these allegations against Facebook, which already faces an antitrust lawsuit filed by the Federal Trade Commission.
- How did the temporary outage of Facebook, Instagram, and its other platforms affect world commerce?
- Do you think Facebook should be broken up by regulators under antitrust laws? Why or why not?
Sources: Raymond Zhong, “Facebook’s Apps Went Down. The World Saw How Much It Runs on Them,” The New York Times, October 5, 2021; Mike Isaac and Sheera Frenkel, “Gone in Minutes, Out for Hours: Outage Shakes Facebook,” The New York Times, October 4, 2021; Daniel Howley, “Facebook Outage: Why the World’s Largest Social Network Was Down for 6 Hours,” Yahoo Finance, October 5, 2021.