On, 4th October, 2021, around 9 PM, people all over India lost access to social-media platforms Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram for nearly 6 hours. The reported cause of the issue was suspected global outage and technical failure which disrupted their services.
People were not able to send, load messages, and access videos which made them feel disrupted and irritated. This irritation was clearly evident on another popular social-media platform Twitter, where people were tweeting continuously about the breakdown of the platforms and how it was hampering their work and entertainment. Some of the companies even took the advantage of the problem to market themselves on Twitter, including Twitter itself.
The outage stopped billions of people across the world from accessing, sending, or receiving messages on these sites. Facebook stated in a tweet, “We’re aware that some individuals are having difficulty accessing our applications and products.”
WhatsApp too, tweeted: “We’re aware that some individuals are now experiencing problems with WhatsApp. We’re working hard to restore normalcy and will provide an update as soon as possible. Thank you for your understanding!”
Even if we consider jusr India, WhatsApp has a user base of 340 million, Instagram has amassed 180 million userbase, and the talk of the town, Facebook, has a whopping 340 million active users.
The Facebook app family experienced a severe outage earlier this year in March, when the services were unavailable for over 45 minutes. Prior to this, four significant WhatsApp outages had happened in 2020 alone, the most recent of which occurred in January and lasted around three hours. Following that, there was one in April, a two-hour blackout in July, and a brief one in August.
As per The New York Times, citing two senior Facebook security team employees, the breakdown was not likely the result of a cyberattack since the technology underpinning the applications was still diverse enough that a single hack would not likely impact all of them at the same time.
Efforts to access the Facebook website returned a DNS error – the same issue that triggered a global shutdown in July this year when network infrastructure provider Akamai had a malfunction in its systems.
SOCIAL MEDIA DILEMMA
The recent outage gave us a wonderful insight on how much dependent and vulnerable we are in face of the social media web. These social media platforms have clawed its way so deep into our lives that even few hours without them felt like an eternity. People were enraged by the fact that the social media blacked out. This blackout ticked so many people because in the past few years countless businesses have transferred to digital medium.
Also, the digital age has given rise to the influencer business, marketing business got a new outlook, writing business prospered, people who couldn’t showcase their worth due to lack of a stage got a platform which required only time and effort irrespective of the background. However, how much praises are showered upon the digital media platforms to provide us with a whole new world of possibilities, it is exponentially responsible for making us addicted to them.
LOSS FACEBOOK SUFFERED
Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg’s fortune plummeted by more than $6 billion in a few hours during the Facebook breakdown, knocking him down a rung on the list of the world’s wealthiest individuals, after the social networking behemoth, along with Instagram and WhatsApp, had an almost seven-hour shutdowns. A defector came out hours before the disruption and exposed her name, which probably contributed to the outage.
Zuckerberg’s personal worth was decreased by more than $6 billion in only a few hours. According to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, these few hours gave quite a hard blow to Zuckerberg’s position in the billionaires list, plunging him to 5th position. With $120.9 billion, he is now sixth in the world, trailing Bill Gates. Facebook shares fell nearly 5%, bringing the company’s total loss to 15% since mid-September.
As per The Index, Zuckerberg’s net worth has dropped from over $140 billion in a couple of weeks. The Wall Street Journal started publishing series of stories, on September 13 based on a database of internal company documents, disclosing that Facebook was aware of a range of problems with its products — such as Instagram’s harm to teenage girls’ mental health and misleading information about the January 6 Capitol riots — while trying to downplay the concerns in public.
Frances Haugen, 37, came out after applying for federal whistleblower protection. Haugen submitted internal papers to Congress, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and The Wall Street Journal. She chose to expose her name, noting that Facebook understood that if they changed the algorithm to make it safer, users would spend less time on the site and click on fewer advertisements, resulting in less revenue. Haugen was the one who submitted documents and facts on Instagram being damaging to teenagers’ mental health, which resulted in the platform suspending Instagram kids.
RESPONSE BY FACEBOOK
In response, Facebook has underlined that the challenges confronting its products, such as political gridlock, are multifaceted and are not just the result of technology. “I believe it gives people solace to feel that there must be a technological or a technical explanation for the challenges of political polarisation in the United States,” Facebook’s vice president of global affairs, Nick Clegg, told CNN.
It was one of the longest disruptions that Facebook and its services, such as WhatsApp, has experienced. According to Facebook’s blog, the reason of the global blackout was a router problem. The outage was caused by an incorrect configuration update, according to Facebook.