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Facebook goes dark as whistleblower spills its secrets

Peter Griffin, Editor. 05 October 2021, 8:29 am

At first glance, Facebook's endless newsfeed looked very much as it always does at 6.30 am this morning.

But then I tried to click on the comments under a post and this came up. 

Screenshot 2021-10-05 at 8.19.01 AM.png

At that point, Kim Hill on RNZ helpfully informed me that the entire Facebook network of social media platforms - Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp and Instagram had been offline since 5 am, a global outage affecting over 2 billion users.

It wasn't me that was offline - it was Facebook.

At this stage, Facebook hasn't confirmed the reason for the outage. But many technical users pointed out that the Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp DNS servers were not responding this morning, pointing to a DNS configuration or server issue.

What would trigger that - a technical slip-up at Facebook or something more sinister in the form of a hack or denial of service attack of some description, will emerge in the coming hours.

Screenshot 2021-10-05 at 8.01.29 AM.png


Most signs point to a configuration issue causing the outage. Indeed, that was the reason given by a Reddit user claiming to be a Facebook employee, before hastily deleting the message and the Reddit account. ZDNet published his message:

"DNS for FB services has been affected and this is likely a symptom of the actual issue, and that's that BGP peering with Facebook peering routers has gone down, very likely due to a configuration change that went into effect shortly before the outages happened (started roughly 1540 UTC)."

It all amounts to a huge headache for Facebook whose users rely on constant and real-time access to its services.

But the outage adds mounting pressure on Facebook, which is dealing with the fallout from a former employee going public with tens of thousands of leaked company documents.

The Washington Post has described the release of the Facebook papers as "the most significant crisis in the company's 17-year history".

The documents had formed the basis of a lengthy Wall Street Journal series, The Facebook Files, before the whistleblower, former Facebook product manager, Frances Haugen, revealed her identity on Sunday in an appearance on 60 Minutes.  

In her appearance, she outlined how Facebook executives knew about the range of social harms its platforms were causing but didn't act to spot them.

"There were conflicts of interest between what was good for the public and what was good for Facebook. And Facebook, over and over again, chose to optimise for its own interests, like making more money," Haugen told 60 Minutes.

"A lot of what Facebook is doing isn't illegal because they hid the information that politicians would have needed to create regulations that addressed it," she added.

Haugen is now determined to use the documents to try and spur regulation of Facebook, which is already facing an investigation into how Capitol Hill rioters used its platforms to organise their operation, as well as anti-trust probes.

Haugen's lawyers have filed complaints against Facebook with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and she will appear tomorrow before a Congressional panel to outline the company's activities.

Investors are nervous, with Facebook's share price sliding at least 5% in the last day.

It's only Tuesday and the week could still get much worse for the world's social media giant.


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