Caregivers who keep each other informed about the well-being of their loved one via WhatsApp. Influencers who earn their income through Instagram. Minimums without a telephone subscription who depend on Facebook Messenger for their communication. A global outage at parent company Facebook shut down large swaths of this type of online traffic Monday evening between 6 and midnight.
Competing platforms such as the Signal messaging service reported a large influx of new users, and on Twitter the distress quickly turned into jokes. On the stock exchange, parent company Facebook recorded its worst figures for more than a year with a drop of 5 percent soon after the outage.
For hours it was unclear to the outside world why Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger were not working. Once the problem was rectified and services gradually resumed, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg apologized for the outage. “I know how much you rely on our services to keep in touch with the people you care about.”
1. Who was affected by this outage?
Facebook serves almost three billion people worldwide, WhatsApp has two billion users and Instagram one billion – together the three form one large company.
The website DownDetector reported hundreds of thousands of outages per hour from around the world. Facebook employees could not receive messages on their Facebook address. Some couldn’t even enter the office because their access passes no longer worked, reported a reporter by The New York Times.
2. Is the timing of this outage a coincidence?
The outage came after whistleblower Frances Haugen told US TV the night before about how young users could be harmed by Instagram use. The former Facebook employee took tens of thousands of copies of documents in her last weeks at the company and leaked them to the newspaper The Wall Street Journal.
Based on these documents, the newspaper described, among other things, how the company applies its own rules with prominent users less strictly. The newspaper also revealed that the group has long realized that the photo app of its subsidiary Instagram can seriously damage the mental health of teenage girls.
But there turned out to be no connection between the anger that flared up over Facebook and the crippling malfunction. Fears that there had been a hack or other type of attack proved unfounded.
Facebook employees already said Monday evening that the various apps of the group are not integrated in such a way that they can all be switched off from the outside in one fell swoop. The problem seems to be caused by a faulty update on Facebook itself.
3. Can Facebook breathe a sigh of relief now?
New. The technical issue has not only revealed a weakness in Facebook’s network, it has also shown that the problems for users around the world would have been less severe if Facebook had not been given permission to take over WhatsApp and Instagram.
In addition, Facebook is still under heavy fire in connection with the recent revelations in The Wall Street Journal. Whistleblower Haugen will be heard in the US Senate this Tuesday. A hearing with a Facebook representative last week revealed the hostility of senators from both sides to the social media company.