Facebook outage leads to global communications shutdown


Yuri Samoilov (yuri.samoilov.online) | Flickr

Arianne Gonzalez, Arts & Culture Editor

Social media users were in disarray when Facebook and its affiliated apps, including Instagram and WhatsApp, crashed for several hours on Oct. 4.

Users noticed error messages on Facebook apps at around 11:40 a.m.and the tech giant announced a fix and apologized six hours later, according to The New York Times.

In an official statement, the company noted that the cause of the outage was due to changes in configurations to routers in their data centers. This meant that the update to their routers led to disruptions within Facebook’s internal systems, which elongated the outage and prevented employees from reaching the routers, according to NPR.

“We want to make it clear that there was no malicious activity behind this outage — its root cause was a faulty configuration change on our end,” the official Facebook post read. “We also have no evidence that user data was compromised as a result of this downtime.”
This outage is the company’s biggest since March 2019. Before that, the company’s largest shutdown was in 2008 when it had only 80 million users at the time, according to The Verge.

More than 3.5 billion users were affected by the latest shutdown. Social media and commerce apps’ operations, including Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp, were also halted, as well as other apps and services where Facebook is used to sign in to them.

Facebook’s own app, as well as its affiliates like Messenger and WhatsApp, are some of the main modes of international communication. Countries such as India, Brazil and Mexico who rely on Facebook’s services for messaging and commerce were devastated by the shutdown, according to The Guardian.

“They are often the backbone of communication in these countries. Small businesses and informal economies in particular rely on Facebook’s services,” Callum Sillars, a social media expert at Ampere Analysis, said to The Guardian.

Businesses and e-commerce were indeed heavily impacted by the outage. More than 10 million brands and businesses advertise on Facebook and its platforms, and so drop in sales for these companies could be anywhere from 30% to 70%, according to CNBC. The Facebook app itself has its own selling platform called Facebook Marketplace, which users were unable to use on Monday.

Facebook was already facing massive scrutiny before the outage occurred. The Wall Street Journal recently published The Facebook Files, an investigation into the harm that the company causes. The whistleblower who gave files to WSJ, Frances Haugen, spoke to a Senate committee about how the company prioritizes profit over safety, according to The Washington Post, and Sen. Richard Blumenthal called on Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to testify before the committee.