Facebook Reveals Cause of Six-Hour Blackout
17:53 GMT 05.10.2021 (Updated: 18:23 GMT 03.11.2022)
On Tuesday, Facebook revealed what caused the six-hour-long outage the previous day. In a blog post, Facebook said the outage was triggered by a system that manages its global backbone network capacity.
Facebook's engineering team determined that "configuration changes on the backbone routers that coordinate network traffic between our data centers caused issues that interrupted this communication."
While this explanation is light on specifics, the blog post makes clear that there was no malicious activity and that they have no evidence that user data was compromised.
in the coming days and weeks, the long-term implications of the outage will become clearer. Without detailed specifics over what caused the outage, it's impossible to know if Facebook has systemic issues or if this was a simple, predictable, technological problem.
Dr. Ansgar Koene, a senior research fellow at the Horizon Digital Economy Research Institute, University of Nottingham, and Global AI Ethics and Regulatory Leader at Ernst & Young, believes the long-term fallout from the outage could prompt regulators to take a closer look at Facebook.
"The most significant potential long-term implications financially is if this triggers thinking at the government regulatory level that they say this is evidence that Facebook is basically an utility in the digital space similar to as water, gas, and electricity are in the physical space.... that would make Facebook maybe even, this is speculation, in the long term into something like an utility."
There is also the reality that the outage could hurt Facebook in future anti-trust cases. Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Facebook messenger are four of the five most used social media platforms and have 7.5 billion active users. For many people, without Facebook, there is no internet or ability to communicate with friends, family, and customers.
Dr. Ansgar Koene, adds, "the events yesterday that so clearly demonstrated the dominant position that Facebook has and the impact, the extent to which lots of other companies depend on Facebook and people depend on Facebook, will have an impact on the antitrust case."
Ryan Hartwig, co-author of "Behind the mask of Facebook: A Whistleblower's Shocking Story of Big Tech Bias and Censorship," also voiced concerns over Facebook's outsized dominance of the internet and what the outage says about the company.
"I think it's definitely a big deal if they can't handle their major infrastructure. And of course, with the sheer amount of traffic that Facebook has, when they have an outage, it affects the entire internet."
Some have mused that Facebook's outage was meant to draw attention away from or the conversation around Facebook whistleblower, Frances Haugen. However, Hartwig, also a Facebook whistleblower, is not convinced.
He said, "I actually don't think that they're related, but I'm just trying to think how they would benefit from this... I don't think it was a purposeful attempt to avoid discussion of Frances Haugen... It is kind of an interesting coincidence, but I don't think it's intentional."
Facebook's near six-hour outage is only one of their many problems. The company faces anti-trust suits, criticism from both the left and the right in the US, and the UN has been critical of their handling of hate speech in Myanmar's genocide of the Rohingya. Even with all of its looming problems, the company remains one of the most valuable and powerful in the world.