Facebook has responded to millions of users locked out of the social media site and WhatsApp and Instagram today.
Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp were hit by a massive global outage on Tuesday morning, leaving tens of millions worldwide unable to access the sites.
Users trying to access Facebook in affected areas were greeted with the message: “Something went wrong. We’re working on it, and we’ll get it fixed as soon as we can.”
It is now understood that many locked-out Facebook users, in Australia at least, have been able to get back on the site — as of about 9am (AEDT) this morning.
Many Aussies say their Instagram and WhatsApp sites are back up and running, too, with some people are reporting issues across the three areas. Facebook issued a statement saying their services were back online.
“To the huge community of people and businesses around the world who depend on us: we’re sorry. We’ve been working hard to restore access to our apps and services and are happy to report they are coming back online now. Thank you for bearing with us,” they said.
However, the outage lasted for more than five hours, and it is estimated to have cost Facebook — which runs the three sites — US$160 million for every hour it was down, according to NetBlocks. The company’s shares are also taking a hammering. As of this morning, they are down 5 percent.
“We’re aware that some people are having trouble accessing our apps and products,” Facebook said in a statement. “We’re working to get things back to normal as quickly as possible, and we apologize for any inconvenience.”
Downdetector, which provides real-time information about the status of various websites and services, confirmed the “widespread” outage, which began about 2.23am today. The outage has been blamed on a Domain Name System (DNS) failure.
A DNS, or Domain Name System, connects domain names to the correct IP addresses so that people can access popular websites. Earlier this year, an outage at a significant DNS operator took out vast swathes of the internet briefly. However, the problem appears to be bigger than just a technical issue, with reports of trouble at Facebook’s headquarters today.
Employees have been reportedly unable to enter the tech giant’s buildings since the outage began. Two Facebook security team members told the New York Times it was unlikely that a cyberattack caused the issues because the technology behind the apps was still different enough that one hack was not likely to affect all of them at once.
Facebook’s site this morning returned a message that read, “This site can’t be reached.” Network intelligence company ThousandEyes said tests confirmed that the Facebook application became unreachable due to DNS failure.
“Facebook’s authoritative DNS nameservers became unreachable at that time,” it said in a statement. 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.”
Twitter also posted the cheeky message: “hello literally everyone”. In a curious twist, the domain name “Facebook.com” was listed for sale by Domain Tools. The organisation behind the domain registration was still listed as Facebook, Inc. and it’s unclear why the site’s address would be listed for sale.
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. 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.
Facebook embroiled in controversy
The outage began after several reports that were severely critical of Facebook appeared yesterday. CBS news show “60 Minutes” aired a segment in which Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen shared a trove of Facebook alleging the social media giant knew its products were fuelling hate and harming children’s mental health.
Ms Haugen, a 37-year-old data scientist from Iowa who has worked for companies including Google and Pinterest, said in an interview that Facebook was “substantially worse” than anything she had seen before.
She called for the company to be regulated. “Facebook over and over again has shown it chooses profit over safety. It is subsidising, it is paying for its profits with our safety,” Ms Haugen said.
“The version of Facebook that exists today is tearing our societies apart and causing ethnic violence around the world,” she said.
The world’s largest social media platform has been embroiled in a firestorm brought about by Ms. Haugen. As an unnamed whistleblower, she shared the documents with US politicians and The Wall Street Journal that detail how Facebook knew its products, including Instagram, were harming young girls.
In the 60 Minutes interview she explained how the algorithm, which picks what to show in a user’s News Feed, is optimised for content that gets a reaction.
The company’s own research shows that it is “easier to inspire people to anger than it is to other emotions,” Ms. Haugen said. “Facebook has realised 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.”
A new report released yesterday by Plan International Australia found 87 percent of the thousands of people it surveyed thought misinformation and disinformation had negatively impacted their lives.
One in three reported false information affected their mental health, leaving them feeling stressed, worried, and anxious. While one in five had been left feeling physically unsafe. – with the New York Post and AFP Originally published as Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram hit by the global outage: Why Facebook isn’t working.