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outrage as FB, IG and Whatsapp hit by global outage

Zuckerberg loses billions of dollars

By Ricky Browne

It wasn’t the end of times, but it may have been a dress rehearsal, when not just Facebook, but Instagram and Whatsapp as well, all went down for six hours yesterday across the globe.

The three social media companies are all owned by Facebook and have billions of users – people posting pics of themselves enjoying wonderful lives, jokes, topical memes, opinions or as a method of communication.

But the outage also affected several sites that have a sign-in linked to Facebook accounts – meaning that the number of people affected was even wider than only direct users. Businesses which communicate with their customers using these social media platforms could also have been hit.

Mark Zuckerberg lost billions

The three sites went down at about 4:00 pm GMT and didn’t return until 10:00 pm that night.

The outage might have been good news for alternate social media sites such as Twitter and LinkedIn which don’t fall under the Facebook umbrella – and will have reminded people that FB, IG and Whatsapp are all part of one group, and that maybe it’s a good idea to also use other providers.

The share price of FB fell by five percent during the outage, from a total value of about US$967 billion on Friday down to US$916 billion by Monday evening.

And poor FB founder Mark Zuckerberg was said to have lost US$4 billion or even as much as US$7  billion in his wealth in just a few hours. But that probably won’t last long ., and fortunately he still has $100 billion on so to fall back on. Actually, its been a rough set of weeks for Zuckerberg recently, who over the last few weeks has seen his fortune drop from US$141 million to less than US$120 million.

The site was down, so Zuckerberg couldn’t speak to FB users on the platform. But once things started to improve, he made his first FB post about the matter.

“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 on FB, receiving 2.7 million likes and 729,000 comments.

FB’s share price plummeted yesterday, but has started to recover

Later he gave a little more detail via FB.

“It’s been a busy day, but I want to congratulate the scientists at the Biohub on all the progress you’ve made since we started five years ago. From mapping cellular functions to developing new technology to visualize protein interactions to building diagnostic tools for Covid and beyond, there are a lot of breakthroughs to be proud of as we work towards helping scientists be able to cure, prevent, or manage all diseases by the end of this century.”

But really, that didn’t seem to be about the main problem at all – and was probably just an attempt to get the conversation to move along from the outage. That post received 181,000 likes and 19,000 comments after seven hours.

More embarrassingly, FB had to resort to using its nemesis Twitter, to update its 13.4 million followers on Twitter to let FB users know what was happening.

“We’re aware that some people are having trouble accessing our apps and products. We’re working to get things back to normal as quickly as possible, and we apologize for any inconvenience” FB tweeted.

A few hours later it added:

“To the huge community of people and businesses around the world who depend on us: we’re sorry. We’ve been working hard to restore access to our apps and services and are happy to report they are coming back online now. Thank you for bearing with us.”

At least Twitter was happy

Twitter kind of celebrated FB’s misfortune with a short tweet that read: “Hello literally everyone”.

That tweet got 3.2 million likes and 177500 comments – one of the from Instagram, which tweeted” “Hi and happy Monday” with a dazed emoji attached.

But not even Twitter was immune from the “cascade effect” as Twitter Support later tweeted” “Sometimes more people than usual use Twitter. We prepare for these moments, but today things didn’t go exactly as planned. Some of you may have had an issue seeing replies and DMs as a result. This has been fixed. Sorry about that!”

That tweet got 331,700 likes and 72,700 comments.

But what caused the problem in the first place?

“Our engineering teams have learned that configuration changes on the backbone routers that coordinate network traffic between our data centers caused issues that interrupted this communication. This disruption to network traffic had a cascading effect on the way our data centers communicate, bringing our services to a halt,” Facebook said in a statement.

It added that there was “no evidence that user data was compromised”.

This is what some users were greeted with when they tried to use FB

That would suggest that FB now knows what the problem was, and was able to fix it. But it doesn’t say why the problem happened or if it could happen again.

There was some speculation that the outage could have been the result of an innocent internal mistake – but there were other ideas that it could have been sabotage from an insider. Less spoken about was the possibility of an attack coming from a country such as  China, North Korea, Iran or Russia.

Such theories were struck down elsewhere.

According to the Associated Press there was no evidence that the issue was caused by malicious activity. It said that according to experts the outage, could have only originated from within the company.

But conspiracy theories are likely to abound. And it doesn’t help that FB is not allowed in China. The country has its own social media platform – WeChat – which is largely controlled by the Chinese government. It is said to have about one billion users, compared to FB’s global reach of about two billion.

FB is also blocked in North Korea and Iran. It isn’t banned in Russia, but the largest social media platform there is Vkontakte (VK) followed by FB’s Instagram, followed by Odnoklassniki and then Facebook itself.

Frances Haugen gives testimony to the Senate Committee

 With the FB platforms back up, the company may have hoped its worries were behind it. Not for long. As a former FB employee gave whistle-blower testimony to a US Senate committee.

Frances Haugen called for tougher regulation for her former employer telling the committee that the company puts profits over safety and people “Congressional action is needed” she said.

The end result is that there may be a rough ride ahead for FB shareholders. But given that there is no real competition for the FB companies, apart from Twitter, this could be just a blib on the company’s performance. That is good news especially for Zuckerberg, who may not need to escape to space anytime soon and should soon regain the billions that he lost.

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