Facebook and its Instagram and WhatsApp platforms suffered a global blackout on Monday that lasted more than three hours. Facebook’s internal systems used by employees have also declined. Service has not yet been restored.
The company did not specify the cause of the outage, which began around 11:40 a.m. ET. Websites and applications often experience outages of varying size and duration, but overall downtime lasting several hours is rare.
“It’s epic,” said Doug Madory, director of internet analytics for Kentik Inc, a network surveillance and intelligence company. The last major internet blackout, which took many of the world’s largest websites offline in June, lasted less than an hour. The stricken content delivery company Fastly blamed it on a software bug triggered by a customer who changed a setting.
Facebook’s only public comment so far was a tweet in which it acknowledged that “some people are having difficulty accessing (the) Facebook app” and that it is working to restore access. Regarding internal failures, Instagram chief Adam Mosseri tweeted that it looked like a “snowy day.”
But the impact has been far worse for a multitude of Facebook’s nearly 3 billion users, showing just how much the world has come to rely on him and his properties – to run businesses, connect with communities of affinity, logging into several other websites, and even ordering food.
It also showed that, despite the presence of Twitter, Telegram, Signal, TikTok, Snapchat and a host of other platforms, nothing can really replace the social network that has evolved in 17 years into anything but critical infrastructure. Facebook’s demand on Monday to dismiss a revised antitrust complaint against it by the Federal Trade Commission because it faces vigorous competition from other services seemed to ring a little hollow.
The cause of the failure remains uncertain. Madory said it appears Facebook has removed the “authoritative DNS routes” that allow the rest of the internet to communicate with its properties. Such routes are part of the Internet’s domain name system, a central component of the Internet that directs its traffic. Without Facebook broadcasting its routes on the public Internet, apps and web addresses simply couldn’t locate it.
So many people depend on Facebook, WhatsApp or Instagram as their primary mode of communication that losing access for so long can leave them vulnerable to criminals who profit from the outage, said Rachel Tobac, hacker and CEO of SocialProof Security.
“They don’t know how to contact the people in their life without it,” she said. “They’re more sensitive to social engineering because they’re so desperate to communicate.” Tobac has said in previous outages that some people have received emails promising to restore their social media accounts by clicking on a malicious link that may expose their personal data.
Jake Williams, chief technical officer of cybersecurity firm BreachQuest, said that while foul play could not be completely ruled out, there was a good chance the outage was “an operational problem” caused by human error.
Madory said there was no sign that anyone other than Facebook was responsible and ruled out the possibility that another major internet player, such as a telecommunications company, had inadvertently rewritten the major ones. routing tables that affect Facebook.
“No one else has announced these routes,” Mador said.
IT scientists have speculated that a bug introduced by a configuration change in Facebook’s routing management system could be to blame. University of Colombia computer scientist Steven Bellovin tweeted that he expected Facebook to try automated recovery first in such a case. If that failed, it could be “a world of suffering” – as manual changes would have to be ordered in external data centers, he added.
“In summary: Running a BIG distributed system, even by Internet standards, is very difficult, even for the best,” Bellovin tweeted.
Facebook was already in the throes of a separate major crisis after whistleblower Frances Haugen, a former Facebook product manager, provided the Wall Street Journal with internal documents that exposed the company’s awareness of the damage caused by its products and decisions . Haugen went public with CBS’s “60 Minutes” show on Sunday and is expected to testify before a Senate subcommittee on Tuesday.
Haugen had also anonymously filed complaints with federal law enforcement alleging that Facebook’s own research showed how this amplifies hatred and misinformation, leads to increased polarization, and that Instagram, in particular, can be harmful to health. mental adolescent.
The Journal’s articles, titled “The Facebook Files,” paint a portrait of a business focused on growth and its own interests above the public good. Facebook has tried to minimize the search. Nick Clegg, the company’s vice president of policy and public affairs, wrote to Facebook employees on Friday in a note that “Social media has had a big impact on society in recent years, and Facebook is often a place where much of this debate takes place. “
Twitter, meanwhile, stepped in from the company’s main Twitter account, posting “Hello literally everyone” as jokes and memes about the Facebook outage flooded the platform. Later, as an unverified screenshot suggesting the facebook.com address was for sale circulated, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted: “How much?”
AP tech author Matt O’Brien contributed to this report from Providence, RI