Now that Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp are coming back into service, after a dramatic global outage, we’re wrapping up our live coverage of the outage.
But there are still many questions unanswered, about what caused the outage, what effects the service disruption had for the at least 3.5bn people who use Facebook’s apps around the world, and what the consequences of the outage will be as Facebook faces increasing public pressure over its impact on everything from US teens’ body image to the survival of democracies around the world.
Here’s some of the remaining questions:
- Who’s responsible? Outside security experts said they believed the server problem that caused a six-hour global outage of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp could have only originated from within the company. But Facebook and its CEO Mark Zuckerberg have offered no public explanation for what exactly went wrong, just a blanket apology for the disruption.
- Who was hurt? The outage affected potentially tens of millions of users worldwide. Owners of small businesses were also disrupted everywhere from India to Ireland.
- What does the outage demonstrate about Facebook’s size and influence? “The outage came the same day Facebook asked a federal judge that that a revised antitrust complaint against it by the Federal Trade Commission be dismissed because it faces vigorous competition from other services,” the Associated Press reported, even as the brief disappearance of Facebook showed that “nothing can easily replace the social network that over the past 17 years has effectively evolved into critical infrastructure.”
- Will the outage have a lasting effect on Facebook’s stock price, and Mark Zuckerberg’s wealth? Bloomberg reported earlier today that the nearly 5% drop in Facebook stock on Monday resulted in a more than $6bn drop in Zuckerberg’s net worth, sliding him down one rung of Bloomberg’s billionaires list.
- How will lawmakers in the US and other countries respond? Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen is slated to testify before the US Senate tomorrow, and is expected to compare Facebook to Big Tobacco, which knew about the deadly effects of its product on users and did nothing. She is also expected to describe how the company’s lack of transparency into how its services actually function makes it virtually impossible for regulators to do their job effectively. The testimony will provide a forum for powerful US politicians to weigh in about the company’s current crises.
Read the Guardian’s full news story on the outage here:
Zuckerberg finally posts about the outage: ‘Sorry for the disruption’
Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg finally commented on his company’s global outage, in a Facebook post on his restored site.
Zuckerberg offered no explanation for what had happened.
“Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger are coming back online now. Sorry for the disruption today — I know how much you rely on our services to stay connected with the people you care about,” he posted.
KrebsOnSecurity reports Facebook outage was ‘a routine update gone wrong.’
Brian Krebs, a longtime computer security expert, wrote earlier today that the changes that caused Facebook’s global outage “had to have come from inside the company” but whether “the changes were made maliciously or by accident is anyone’s guess at this point.”
Krebs’ most recent update cites “a trusted source who spoke with a person on the recovery effort at Facebook” and who was told that “the outage was caused by a routine BGP update gone wrong.”
The source also explained that “The errant update blocked Facebook employees — the majority of whom are working remotely — from reverting the changes,” Krebs reports.
For more on what that means, my colleague Alex Hern’s brilliant tweet thread breaks it down.
No evidence Facebook outage was malicious or an ‘attack,’ outside experts say
There was no evidence as of Monday afternoon that malicious activity was involved in Facebook’s global outage, the Associated Press reported.
Matthew Prince, CEO of the internet infrastructure provider Cloudflare, tweeted that “nothing we’re seeing related to the Facebook services outage suggests it was an attack”. Prince said the most likely explanation was that Facebook mistakenly knocked itself off the internet during maintenance, the Associated Press reported.
Facebook did not respond to messages for comment from the Associated Press about the attack or the possibility of malicious activity. The company has not commented on the reason for the outage.
Other outside analysts agreed that there was no sign Facebook going down was the result of an outside attack, rather than internal human error.
‘Facebook and its sites had effectively disconnected themselves from the internet’
Trying to understand, on a more precise technical level, what exactly caused a massive global outage of Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, and who’s responsible?
Employees at Cloudflare, a website security company, wrote up a narrative of how (from their monitoring perspective) the outage went down. There are diagrams.
A brief guide to a world without Facebook
For the people who have spent years monitoring the way disinformation spreads on Facebook, and watching the deadly consequences, living in a world where Facebook was simply not accessible was…quite an experience.
It’s something that Sheera Frenkel, the co-author of An Ugly Truth, a new expose abotu Facebook, highlighted as Facebook came back online.
And it’s something that a Guardian’s reporter who covered Facebook for years also highlighted:
WhatsApp outage: ‘The phones of all your loved ones turned off without warning.’
Facebook has announced that its services are back online, after a roughly six-hour global outage. For people worldwide, journalists noted, it’s WhatsApp being down, more than Facebook itself, which may have caused the most disruption to individual people and families.
Investigative journalist Aura Bogado framed the stakes of the WhatsApp outage:
Guardian tech reporter Johana Bhuiyan highlighted others chiming in:
Facebook’s design makes it impossible to regulate, whistleblower will tell Congress
Facebook’s executives, including Mark Zuckerberg have repeatedly told US lawmakers that they welcome government regulation. Facing scrutiny for their internal policy decisions, they have asked politicians to draw the line on harmful content.
But in her prepared Senate testimony, Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen plans to argue that Facebook’s lack of transparency makes it impossible for regulators to meaningfully serve as a check on the powerful global platform.
“This inability to see into the actual systems of Facebook and confirm that Facebook’s systems work like they say is like the department of transportation regulating cars by watching them drive down the highway,” her testimony says, according to Reuters. “Imagine if no regulator could ride in a car, pump up its wheels, crash test a car, or even know that seat belts could exist.”
“Facebook’s closed design means it has no oversight,” Haugen’s testimony says.
And the company’s oversight board, which Facebook created, is “as blind as the public”, the testimony says.
Ceclia Kang, one of the authors of An Ugly Truth: Inside Facebook’s Battle for Domination, highlighted another part of this argument:
Reuters: Facebook whistleblower to compare social media company to Big Tobacco
Former Facebook employee and whistleblower Frances Haugen will urge the US Congress on Tuesday to regulate the social media giant, which she plans to liken to tobacco companies that for decades denied that smoking damaged health, according to prepared testimony seen by Reuters.
“When we realized tobacco companies were hiding the harms it caused, the government took action. When we figured out cars were safer with seatbelts, the government took action,” said Haugen’s written testimony to be delivered to a Senate Commerce subcommittee. “I implore you to do the same here.”
Haugen will tell the panel that Facebook executives regularly chose profits over user safety, Reuters reports.
“The company’s leadership knows ways to make Facebook and Instagram safer and won’t make the necessary changes because they have put their immense profits before people. Congressional action is needed,” she will say. “As long as Facebook is operating in the dark, it is accountable to no one. And it will continue to make choices that go against the common good.”
‘We’re sorry.’ Facebook is back online, slowly, for at least some users
After a global outage that lasted six hours, Facebook is back online for many users.
The company confirmed in a tweet that its services “are coming back online now”, and apologized “to the huge community of people and businesses around the world who depend on us”.
Downdetector, a site that monitors outages and had reported millions of user complaints about Facebook being down, said that it was “starting to see reports begin to decline now that Facebook is back up”.
Facebook began to come back online for American users shortly before 6 pm EST, according to some US journalists monitoring the site.
The outage, which affected Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp worldwide, appeared to be caused by an initial domain name server issue, several news outlets reported, which was then complicated by Facebook’s decision to run nearly every part of its internal operations through its own site.
The company told the New York Times that it expected its site to come back online slowly, and that “it will take some time to stabilize and appear for global users widely”.
So what made Facebook go down? Alex Hern explains it all
Confused about what causes Facebook’s global outage? Guardian tech reporter Alex Hern has a brilliantly clear explanation.
The key takeaway: an initial problem was made much more complicated by the fact that “Facebook runs EVERYTHING through Facebook.”
The “smartcard door lock” problem Alex is describing is not metaphorical. As the New York Times’ Sheera Frankel explained:
Facebook outage caused by ‘DNS routing problems’, multiple outlets report
A six-hour global outage of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp was caused by a problem with the company’s domain name system, multiple news outlets reported.
A ‘cascade’ of costly outages around the world
Billions of users were potentially directly affected by the outages of Facebook, Instagram, and Whatsapp today. But Facebook’s different platforms are also the basis for small businesses around the world, meaning that small stores, restaurants and delivery services across time zones lost money today, the New York Times reported.
In Ireland, it was a clothing business that sells its products via Facebook and Instagram that felt the effects, with one founder telling the New York Times, “Missing out on four or five hours of sales could be the difference between paying the electricity bill or rent for the month.”
“My whole business is down,” the owner of a food delivery service in Delhi told the newspaper.
Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp going down can’t be going well over at Facebook HQ, but it’s very different scenes over on Twitter.
Politicians, comedians and even Twitter have taken advantage of the functioning social media site to poke fun at Facebook’s outage and, in some cases, make points about the company’s dominance in the tech market.
Facebook appears to be back for some users
The social media site is once again loading for some users, including CNN’s Oliver Darcy, and me.
The company told the New York Times it is starting to see the sites coming back online, but they may not be immediately accessible for all global users.
Mark Zuckerberg’s personal wealth has dropped by $6bn, Bloomberg reports
The Facebook founder’s personal wealth has shrunk by more than $6bn in just a few hours today, Bloomberg reports, as Facebook stock has dropped in the wake of mysterious global outages of Facebook platforms and a whistleblower’s allegations that Facebook’s internal policies have betrayed democracy and helped facilitate disinformation and ethnic violence.
The Bloomberg Billionaires Index listed Mark Zuckerberg’s network as almost $140bn a few weeks ago, but it dropped to only $121.6bn as of early this afternoon, Bloomberg reported.
Live coverage: Why is Facebook down around the globe?
This is Lois Beckett, here with live coverage of Facebook’s global outage from our West Coast office in Los Angeles.
We’ll be updating with updates as we have them. Here’s what we know so far:
- Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp became inaccessible for large numbers of people more than five hours ago, with the the website downdetector.com citing at least 5.6m reports about issues with the company’s services from around the world.
- The outage has brought down all of Facebook’s apps “globally”, The Verge reported, “affecting billions of users and millions of advertisers”.
- Within Facebook, even as engineers are being deployed to fix the problem, the outage has disrupted most of the internal systems employees need to communicate with each other and do their jobs, the Verge reported.
- Facebook’s platforms acknowledged that “some people” were having issues accessing its services, but provided no immediate explanation for the problem. “We’re working to get things back to normal as quickly as possible, and we apologize for any inconvenience,” Facebook spokesperson Andy Stone tweeted more than five hours ago.
- The crisis comes as Facebook is already facing intense scrutiny about its policies after Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen, who worked on the company’s civic integrity team, went public with a series of damning allegations, including saying that “the version of Facebook that exists today is tearing our societies apart and causing ethnic violence around the world”, and calling the company’s policy choices “a betrayal of democracy”.
We’ll have more soon.