Facebook and its apps start to come back online after stocks tank

Source: NY Post

Date: 10/4/2021

Facebook offered “sincere apologies” Monday afternoon as a sweeping outage of its site and various other properties, including Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger, stretched for more than six hours and helped to wipe more than $50 billion off Facebook’s market cap — the stock’s worst day of trading in almost a year.

The issues started around 11:45 a.m. ET, according to DownDetector, and hit users globally, taking out critical communications platforms that billions of people and businesses rely on everyday. Service began to return at around 6 p.m.

While Facebook has yet to identify the root of the issue, cybersecurity experts said it does not appear to be a cyberattack and instead seems to be linked to internal issues with Facebook’s systems. 

As the outage stretched into the late afternoon, Facebook chief technology officer Mike Schroepfer issued an apology to users. 

“*Sincere* apologies to everyone impacted by outages of Facebook powered services right now,” he tweeted. “We are experiencing networking issues and teams are working as fast as possible to debug and restore as fast as possible.”

Hours after Facebook’s family of apps began displaying error messages, the company’s security experts were still trying to identify the cause, The New York Times reported, citing an internal memo and employees briefed on the matter.

Facebook’s global security operations center reportedly classified the outage as “a HIGH risk to the People, MODERATE risk to Assets and a HIGH risk to the Reputation of Facebook,” according to a company memo.

As Facebook scrambled to solve the issue, investors ditched the stock, sending almost 5 percent lower to $326.23 per share. It was the stock’s biggest one-day plummet since Nov. 9, 2020. 

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s personal wealth took a more than $6 billion hit on Monday, sending him below Microsoft founder Bill Gates to No. 5 on Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index. Zuckerberg is now worth about $121.6 billion, down from almost $140 billion just a couple weeks ago, according to Bloomberg.

The outage also disrupted internal Facebook systems, including security, a company calendar and scheduling tools, The Times reported, adding that some Facebook employees weren’t even able to enter buildings due to the outage. 

A small team of employees were dispatched to Facebook’s Santa Clara data center to try a “manual reset” of the company’s servers, according to the internal memo obtained by The Times, though the outage hampered some recovery efforts.

At the same time, several Facebook workers, including Instagram chief Adam Mosseri, equated the outage to a “snow day.”

While an email to Facebook spokesperson Andy Stone bounced back, he wrote on Twitter, “We’re aware that some people are having trouble accessing our apps and products. We’re working to get things back to normal as quickly as possible, and we apologize for any inconvenience.”

Twitter users responded by mocking the company, saying that “the world would be better if you just left it all switched off” and that “we’re actually enjoying the lack of disinformation and misinformation.”

In a curious twist, by early afternoon, the domain name “Facebook.com” was listed for sale by Domain Tools. The organization behind the domain registration was still listed as Facebook, Inc. and it’s unclear why the site’s address would be listed for sale. 

The issues started around 11:45 a.m. ET, according to DownDetector, and were hitting users globally.
The issues started around 11:45 a.m. ET, according to DownDetector, and were hitting users globally.
AFP via Getty Images

Facebook reportedly said in an internal memo to employees that it appeared “to be a DNS issue that is impacting both internal and external access to our tools and apps,” according to Dylan Byers, a senior correspondent for Puck News.

A DNS, or Domain Name System, connects domain names to the right IP addresses so that people can access popular websites. Earlier this year, an outage at a major DNS operator took out huge swaths of the internet briefly.

Independent cybersecurity journalist Brian Krebs also linked the outages to a DNS issue, tweeting that Facebook’s DNS records “got withdrawn this morning from the global routing tables.”“Can you imagine working at FB right now, when your email no longer works & all your internal FB-based tools fail?” he wrote.

The issue was not likely caused by a cyberattack because the technology behind Facebook’s various apps is different enough that one hack would not likely affect them all, two anonymous Facebook security team members told the New York Times.

Major websites can also go offline if content delivery networks, or CDNs, crash, which is what happened in June, when a Fastly crash took out major websites including Amazon, Google and the New York Times.

Adam Mosseri, Head of Instagram
Adam Mosseri, head of Instagram, equated the outage to a “snow day.”
Roy Rochlin/Getty Images

This time around, other sites might be impacted, but the Facebook-owned sites appear to be bearing the brunt of the issues, according to DownDetector.Cellphone carriers T-Mobile, Verizon and AT&T also reported some major outages — though far less sweeping — around the same time as Facebook, according to DownDetector.

A representative for T-Mobile said “there is not a T-Mobile outage.”

“Users across all networks and services are being impacted by other third-party application outages,” they said in an emailed statement.

Other popular sites — including Gmail and Microsoft-owned LinkedIn –also began to experience some issues throughout the day, according to DownDetector.

“Instagram and friends are having a little bit of a hard time right now, and you may be having issues using them. Bear with us, we’re on it!” Instagram tweeted.

“We’re working to get things back to normal and will send an update here as soon as possible. Thanks for your patience!” WhatsApp added.

Oculus, the Facebook-owned virtual reality gaming platform, was having issues, too. 

“We’re aware that some people are having trouble accessing our apps and products. We’re working to get things back to normal as quickly as possible, and we apologize for any inconvenience,” Oculus tweeted.

As social media fanatics flocked to Twitter, the Facebook rival joked, “hello literally everyone,” in a tweet that racked up nearly half a million retweets.

But Twitter itself saw some outages Monday afternoon, according to DownDetector, with several thousand people reporting issues on the site.

“Sometimes more people than usual use Twitter. We prepare for these moments, but today things didn’t go exactly as planned. Some of you may have had an issue seeing replies and DMs as a result,” Twitter said. “This has been fixed. Sorry about that!”

Twitter users quickly made “#instagramdown” and “#facebookdown” trending on the platform in response to the outages.

Social media users took to Twitter to complain about the outages and how they tried to restart their internet connection when they could no longer access the Facebook-owned platforms.

“Me after I restarted my internet router for 5 times and then finding out WhatsApp and co servers are down,” user @_farhankarim wrote, along with an image of a clown.

User @SazMCFC joked that Twitter is “saving the world as WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook crash,” along with an image from the Netflix hit series “Squid Game.”

User @Rocky_Ankomah7 tweeted an image of a repair technician grappling with wires and captioned it, “Mark Zuckerberg trying to fix WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook.”

The outage comes a day after a Facebook whistleblower who leaked a trove of damning internal documents to the Wall Street Journal came forward and identified herself as Frances Haugen, a former product manager at Facebook.

The Facebook whistleblower- Frances Haugen
The outage comes a day after Facebook whistleblower, Frances Haugen, identified herself.
60 Minutes/CBS

Haugen, 37, said she came forward after seeing Facebook consistently choosing “to optimize for its own interests, like making more money.”

She also linked what she characterized as Facebook’s inaction in squashing misinformation and the Jan. 6 US Capitol riot, suggesting that Facebook is at least partially responsible for the fatal event.

“One of the consequences of how Facebook is picking out that content today is it is optimizing for content that gets engagement, or reaction,” said Haugen.

“But its own research is showing that content that is hateful, that is divisive, that is polarizing, it’s easier to inspire people to anger than it is to other emotions,” said Haugen.

“Facebook has realized that if they change the algorithm to be safer, people will spend less time on the site, they’ll click on less ads, they’ll make less money,” the woman charged.

Haugen is set to testify before Congress this week. She has already filed reams of anonymous complaints against the company with federal authorities.

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