Outrage over Recent Facebook Outages

One of Facebook’s numerous data centers in Altoona, Iowa

Facebook, one of the most dominant tech companies controlling apps and platforms like Instagram and Whatsapp, experienced outages in the past few weeks. During these outages, Facebook and the apps it owns, shut down and experienced access issues. The first outage occurred on Monday October 4th,and lasted for six hours. Four days later, a second one happened, this time lasting for a few hours. The first outage was the biggest Facebook outage since 2008.

According to Facebook, the first outage was caused by an error during routine maintenance of these apps. The company’s engineers unintentionally issued a command that disconnected Facebook data centers from the rest of the world. Facebook has built an infrastructure that connects all their data centers together. The data centers stopped communicating due to configuration changes that interrupted servers. Facebook emphasized that it was not intentional, and no user data had been leaked, deleted or stolen, but one small mistake led to a massive shutdown.

These apps are used by more than 3.5 billion people across the world for communicating, promoting, expressing ideas and learning. Many people rely on these apps for their jobs and businesses, while others use them to contact and connect with family and friends. Being such a big company, many things were disrupted by the outages, and it had cascading effects. People use their Facebook accounts to login to their smart TVs, sign in to other services/apps and more. Some groups of people impacted by these outages were small business owners and content creators/influencers. Their careers and businesses took a hit because they lost money while not being able to engage online with their clients and followers. Our lives are deeply intertwined with the internet, so these outages have tremendous power to disrupt them.

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, posted an apology on his personal Facebook page after the outage saying, “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.”

Many are wondering if this apology is enough. There are many questions being asked such as: why do so many services that we rely on all operate under the control of one company? Should we take this as an opportunity to log off social media and become less reliant on it? Should we allow big tech companies to attempt to monopolize the internet? What is the role that social media plays in our world, and what will it look like in the future? All these questions remain unanswered but these outages have created discussions that will hopefully lead us to a better, safer, efficient, and more connected world.

Ela Mody ’23

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