Was it a cyberattack?
Was it a coverup?
Some Facebook technician pulled the wrong plug?
Many still wonder what happened during Facebook’s long outage from this week.
Facebook manages to be in the spotlight and have the entire world talk about it by some means or other. This time, even those who never used Facebook were directly affected by what happened with the giant social media platform. Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram seemed to have vanished for many hours on Monday, 4th of October.
The company didn’t quickly provide an explanation, making room for all kinds of speculations. And for a good reason, especially when the disruption came shortly after a former Facebook product manager revealed and brought to light strong evidence showing (once again) how the company chooses profit over public safety.
Let’s explore further what happened during Facebook’s temporary disappearance, all the rumors around it, and which seems closer to the truth.
Soon after no one could communicate through Facebook or WhatsApp, Twitter got flooded with all sorts of comments and rumors about what happened to the social media platform.
Twitter users brought out theories like:
- Facebook is the target of a huge cyber attack
- A frustrated Facebook employee got his/her revenge
- Data of over 1.5 billion Facebook users was sold on a popular hacking-related forum
- Facebook has something to hide after Frances Haugen whistleblower’s revelations
Check out more of the rumors and jokes that circulated on Twitter:
What Did Frances Haugen, Former Facebook Employee, Reveal the Day Before?
On Sunday evening, a former product manager at Facebook came forward on CBS’s ‘60 Minutes’ news show and explained how Facebook chose and optimized its algorithms. Frances Haugen has previously disclosed internal documents about the company’s practices that showed whenever Facebook had to choose between what was best for the public’s safety and mental health and what would bring more money to the company, Facebook always chose the latter.
She uncovered research on the negative effects on teenagers’ mental health. The research was particularly linked to Instagram, where surveyed teenage girls stated they had body image issues that led to severe depression.
Frances’s documents also pointed out that celebrities, politicians and high-profile Facebook users benefitted from special treatment. XCheck (cross-check) system applied different moderation policies or none at all to these accounts.
Also, the company’s promise to reduce misinformation during the US election happened only temporarily. When the election was over, Facebook changed the algorithm settings, prioritizing growth over safety again. And it seems Facebook helped amplify the violence from the deadly Capitol Hill riots in January too.
What Happened to Facebook?
Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram systems stopped communicating to the internet almost simultaneously on Monday, 4th of October. The first impression was that it’s a technical problem, making you think someone pulled the cables from the companies’ data centers.
Whatever Facebook had to hide (if that was the case) was probably something huge and important that’s worth $65 million. That’s how much the company lost, plus stocks going down nearly 5%, in just 7 hours when all its platforms were broken off.
Most agree the signs don’t show it was a cyber-attack; security specialists claim a cybercrime is unlikely to affect too many apps at once. In such cases, it’s either a software bug or a simple human error (even if a human error can also translate into the work of someone from the inside, such as an employee’s attack).
So far, all trails lead to domain name system (DNS) records as the source.
Facebook, and the companies it owns, have their own networks – known as autonomous systems. These networks use what it’s called Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) – similar to a postal service for the internet. When you visit Facebook, Instagram, or WhatsApp, you connect to the BGP.
It seems BGP routes serving Facebook’s DNS (domain name system) were withdrawn, which made it impossible for anyone to access the platforms. Basically, Facebook removed the set-up that guided its users to the company’s address – kind of like knowing who you want to visit but have no clue which path you need to go to reach the destination.
Interestingly enough, Facebook released its first explanation and apology on Twitter, the rival platform. Facebook announced “configuration changes on the backbone routers” caused the outage.
This disruption to network traffic had a cascading effect on the way our data centers communicate, bringing our services to a halt.It’s what Facebook’s vice president of infrastructure said.
It took so long to fix the problem because people trying to figure out what the issue was and eventually fix it, didn’t have access to Facebook’s systems; the massive disruption also left Facebook employees locked outside the office building.
Preparing for The Next Facebook Scandal?
We probably won’t find out anytime soon what really happened with Facebook and what led to its big disruption. What is certain is that Facebook’s trust and credibility get shaken by the day. It’s also likely this is not the last time you’ll read or hear about the social giant’s many twists and turns.
Meanwhile, you can watch ‘The Social Dilemma‘ – an interesting documentary inspecting the rise of social media and its impact on our society. Check a mix of interviews from tech professionals and psychologists who argue on the harmful effects of phone and social media addiction.
If you ever decide to take a break from social media, we’ve prepared a helpful guide, telling you how to do it step by step. And you can find out more intriguing stories of other notorious privacy whistleblowers.
What was the weirdest rumor you read or heard about regarding Facebook’s outage?
Let me know in the comments below.