Published 2021-10-05
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Facebook Seven Hour Shut Down! Who Is Behind The World's Biggest Outage?

All anyone can talk about right now is the fact that Facebook and other sites/apps owned by Zuckerberg were down. As the Verge reported, in a coincidental moment that Facebook’s Antigone Davis was live on CNBC defending the company over accusations and its handling of research data suggesting Instagram is harmful to teens, its entire network of services suddenly went offline. While at the time many had taken to Twitter to try and figure out what has happened that the apps weren’t functioning, as well as sharing memes about the event, what DID actually happen? And just how much money did Mark Zuckerberg lose?

Facebook Down

It was just before noon (EDT) on Monday, October 4th that Facebook and its various platforms such as Instagram and WhatsApp went offline. The outage was experienced all around the world with many people taking to Twitter to share their reactions. The outage that lasted several hours not only made it impossible for the company’s 3 billion-plus users to access their sites, it also impacted internal systems for employees. One person who was familiar with the situation spoke with CNBC and revealed that this outage was so bad that engineers who were tasked with helping resolve the service issues, were unable to even log on and get involved to fix it. People who used T-Mobile, Verizon, and AT&T mobile networks had also reported issues with using the internet at the time, and while many had thought it was linked to what was going on with Facebook, that had not been officially confirmed.

Facebook’s Whistleblower

Many had pointed out that it was a weird coincidence that all these sites went down a day after Frances Hague, a former product manager on Facebook’s civic integrity team, revealed herself to be the whistleblower behind the numerous internal documents that were cited in The Wall Street Journal’s “The Facebook Files” series of reports. On her personal website, she shared that during her time at the company, she “became increasingly alarmed by the choices the company makes prioritizing their own profits over public safety - putting people’s lives at risk.” One Instagram employee that spoke with CNBC revealed that there were talks that this was karma, but adding that they felt bad for any creators or brands who had ad campaigns scheduled to roll out on Monday.

The Worst Outage

Many had pointed out that this was the worst outage in the company’s history since 2008 when a bug had knocked Facebook offline for about a day. But it is worth pointing out that back then it was just Facebook that was affected and that at the time it only had 80 million users, and it was not the kind of social media presence that it is today on which many rely as a source of income. A similar thing had happened in 2019 as well when the site was down for an hour and with some users experiencing issues for about 24 hours. At the time they had blamed a server configuration change for that outage. Though with this most recent outage Facebook Chief Technology Officer Mike Schroepfer tweeted his severe apologies to everyone impacted by the outages and added that they were experiencing networking issues and that teams were working as fast as possible to debut and restore as fast as possible. But people weren’t satisfied with that and soon conspiracy theories started going around the web. Read on to find out what they were.

Conspiracy Theories

To begin with, some had thought that the hacker group Anonymous was behind it, and while not everyone agreed on it being this specific group, many had seemed to believe that some hackers were behind it and that it was tied to Sunday night’s “60-minute” episode in which the aforementioned whistleblower had talked about how the company is intentionally misleading the public and the government on its efforts to curb hate speech and misinformation. A viral tweet from a studio recording business that posted screenshots that seemed to show Facebook’s DNS record (Domain Name System allows the internet to run the sites), as well as their BGP record, have been removed from the internet. And as you can imagine these soon went viral without any context whatsoever but as Vice later reported, the screenshots appeared to be stolen from another Twitter account that described itself as a creative and sports agency. Though it goes without saying that should Facebook somehow been deleted from existence that would have been a very worrying thing.

Data For Sale?!

One of the most popular theories that had been circling around the net seemed to suggest this was the result of a supposed hack in which 1.5 billion Facebook records were being sold on a hacking forum. That is the fear of many users, having their personal information stolen and then used for who-knows-what-purposes. As it was reported by Vice, people were pointing out a 22nd September post from a supposed company called X2Emails, which has“more than 1.5b Database of Facebook these database scraped this year and 100% emails are included and phone as well" and they believe it was linked to the most recent outage. Vice did some research into this said that whoever was behind this didn’t even pretend the data was stolen from Facebook. They explained that the post says it was “scraped” and that it contained: “emails, gender, locations, cities, dob, phone numbers, names”. As the reporters went on to explain, scrapped databases of Facebook users show up all the time and have little or nothing to do with any sort of hack. And if that wasn’t convincing enough, many other users on the Forum had pointed out that it was all most likely a scam anyway. Make sure to read on to find out how this affected Zuckerberg himself!

Facebook Explanation

Though of course ultimately Facebook did offer an explanation. In a blog post that was published Monday night, they revealed that the outage was a result of a configuration change to its routers and not a hack or attempt to get at user data. While that explanation doesn’t give much in the way of detail, it seems that Facebook’s machines weren’t able to talk to one another and as Facebook said “this disruption to network traffic had a cascading effect on the way our data centers communicate, bringing our services to a halt”. CEO Mark Zuckerberg also took to his social media to say the platforms were coming back online and to apologize, adding that he knows how much the users rely on their services to stay connected with the people they care about.

The Aftermath

However, if you thought that Zuckerberg’s problems ended with billions of angry users across the world then you would be wrong. As a result of the outage, Facebook stocks had fallen by 5%. How did this convert into money for the CEO? Well, according to various media reports this several-hour malfunction had lost him $7 billion, bringing his worth down to $120.9 billion. This stock slide had also pushed him down to fifth place on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, securing a position below Bill Gates.

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