On Monday, October 4th, Facebook, Instagram, and Whats-app all shut down, leaving countless people unable to access or utilize their social media accounts. Although this may seem trivial at first, and for others it comes as a blessing as it allows them to connect back into the real world and relationships, many businesses were hurt and the incident shows just how reliant we have become on social media. According to Santosh Janardhan, Facebook’s Vice President of Infrastructure, “configuration changes on the backbone routers that coordinate traffic between our data centers caused issues that interrupted this communication.” In simpler terms, Facebook used something called a BGP, border gateway patrol, with the intention of taking the fastest routes to transfer information but somehow “sent a message to the internet announcing that the company’s servers no longer existed” (Lee and Hoffman, 2021).
The reason why the Facebook shutdown was so difficult to solve was because Facebook is “reliant on its own systems” (AFP, 2021) or in other words everything is self running in one huge bundle, so when it went down, so did everything else. This is the reason Instagram and Whats-app also shut down as all services by Facebook were also unable to be supported in the process. Although there has not been word of how the solution was resolved, it appears a technical team was sent out to California “to manually reset the servers where the problem originated” (Taylor, 2021).
This has been the worst technical failure for Facebook since the 2019 incident during which it was not available for twenty-four hours. However, the timing of the incident is controversial for the company. About a week prior, they postponed Instagram for kids after there was “leaked internal research show[ing] the company was aware the app could affect girls’ mental health” and on Sunday, “the former Facebook civic integrity product manager Frances Haguen went public with explosive allegations that Facebook had prioritized growth and profit over public safety” (Taylor, 2021). Although there are wild conspiracies going around that Facebook is trying to erase information or keep something secret, the one thing we can be sure of based on official statements is that no personal information has been stolen from an external source.
Even though no personal information was stolen, many people’s livelihood certainly took a toll from the shutdown. Many companies and small businesses use Facebook and it’s services to communicate orders and transactions and with it shut down, they lost all possible revenue that could have been gained. Also for some, apps such as Whats-app may be the only source of communication for families to reach loved ones, both close and afar in different countries. Also, those who use Facebook to sign in to particular accounts instead of a personal account or email could not sign into their accounts. Facebook’s shares alone nearly fell by almost 5% while other competing communication apps rose in popularity. Regardless, now that the servers are back up and running it is important to keep in mind how reliant we are on social media for communications. If a boat stuck in a canal for twenty four hours could cost the international community about 12% of global trade, a social media apocalypse could certainly turn our mediums for communication and entertainment into an overnight crisis.
AFP, Why did Facebook, Instagram, and Whatsapp shut down? Bangkok Post, October 2021, https://www.bangkokpost.com/tech/2193319/why-did-facebook-instagram-and-whatsapp-shut-down-
Lawler Richard, Facebook explains the backbone shutdown behind its global outage on Monday, The Verge, October 2021, https://www.theverge.com/2021/10/5/22710963/facebook-dns-bgp-outage-backbone-maintenance
Lee Katy, Hoffman Daniel, Why did Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp shut down; why did it take so long to fix? The Times of Israel, October 2021, https://www.timesofisrael.com/why-did-facebook-instagram-whatsapp-shut-down-why-did-it-take-so-long-to-fix/
Subin Samantha, Facebook is back online after suffering its worst outage since 2008, CNBC, October 2021, https://www.cnbc.com/2021/10/04/facebook-instagram-and-whatsapp-are-down.html
Taylor Josh, Facebook outrage: what went wrong and why did it take so long to fix after social platform went down? The Guardian, October 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2021/oct/05/facebook-outage-what-went-wrong-and-why-did-it-take-so-long-to-fix