Facebook and Instagram Are Down, But Maybe That's Not a Bad Thing

The world was offered a respite from crippling FOMO and democracy-destabilizing disinformation Monday, October 4th, when Facebook and other apps that it owns — including WhatsApp and Instagram — suffered simultaneous outages.

As The New York Times reports, users began seeing error messages around 12 p.m. ET. Facebook has yet to give a reason for the outages, but members of its security team said it was unlikely they were caused by a cyberattack. Whatever the problem is, it appears to have also impacted Facebook’s internal communications platform, leaving employees unable to communicate or do their jobs (a pair of employees said it was like a “snow day”).

One likely culprit appears to be an issue with Facebook’s Domain Name System, which the web infrastructure company Cloudfare describes as “the phonebook of the internet.” Cloudfare’s chief technology officer, John Graham-Cumming explained to The Times that Facebook was experiencing the equivalent of someone’s phone number suddenly disappearing, making it impossible to reach them. 

Andy Stone, a Facebook spokesperson, did offer an update, although was ironically forced to do so on Twitter: “We’re aware that some people are having trouble accessing our apps and products,” Stone said. “We’re working to get things back to normal as quickly as possible, and we apologize for any inconvenience.”

As Facebook scrambles to get things working again, there are some people/entities who are certainly enjoying themselves. Twitter seemed to acknowledge a sudden influx of users, tweeting, “Hello literally everyone,” while the platform’s founder Jack Dorsey responded to a tweet suggesting the outage was so bad Facebook’s domain name was actually up for sale by quipping, “How much?” (In a nice little reminder that every social media platform has serious problems, the user Dorsey retweeted quickly changed their display name to “@jack lets nazis target my family.”)

The outages on Facebook and its other apps do come as the platform faces a particularly intense round of scrutiny. Throughout September The Wall Street Journal published a series of articles based on leaked documents detailing an array of problems, from evidence that Facebook’s 2018 algorithm change was making its userbase angrier to documents showing Facebook was aware that Instagram was particularly harmful for teenage girls. 

Facebook is also facing an antitrust lawsuit filed by the Federal Trade Commission. On Monday, the internet conglomerate filed a motion to dismiss the suit, saying it lacked evidence that the company had violated any antitrust laws. The judge overseeing the case has until mid-November to respond.

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