Science

Why Facebook Servers Went Down Last Week


TL;DR (2-minute read)

  • Facebook and all its apps were down for more than 6 hours on Monday, October 4th.
  • The reason for the outage was reportedly due to an error in the internal server routing.
  • This timing was very convenient, as it occurred just after a whistleblower performed interviews for the show 60 Minutes.

The Outage

At around noon on Monday, October 4th, the servers that host all of the connections for websites owned by Facebook went down. Facebook, and Instagram attributed the problem to “BGP connections.” The BGP is essentially a guide for your internet. In a very oversimplified sense, the BGP is a link between different sections of the internet, constantly updating to find the fastest route between the two sites. In their claims, Facebook stated that the issue arose from a command prompt during routine maintenance.  

A Facebook server room. Facebook

Effects of the Outage

The 6-hour shortage showed the reliance the world has on the corporation’s many social media apps. In many developing nations such as Mexico, Facebook’s free services assist in their growing economies. On a larger economic scale, the company lost almost 50 billion dollars on the stock market. They also lost about 13 million dollars from missed ad revenue across their many platforms. Facebook has grown into such a powerful global presence that in its short outage the entire world felt empty without it.

Illustration by Alex Castro/ The Verge

Speculation

The Sunday prior to this, an ex-employee of Facebook appeared on CBS’s 60 Minutes to address an adamant issue she has been talking about for many previous sources. The whistleblower, Francis Hougen, talked primarily about the impact of Facebook’s Instagram on young children. Francis also claims that Facebook has the ability to end the terrible body messages it sends to teen girls.  Then on the Tuesday after the outage, Hougen was set to appear before a Senate committee over enforcing stricter regulations on Facebook to help stop their money-first attitude. Many of course found the outage to be a little less than coincidence. Large speculation grew over the outage with many rumors focusing on the fact that Facebook was changing its algorithm so that it appears as though the company is attempting to make changes and thus looks less at fault.

Sources

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2021/oct/05/facebook-outage-highlights-global-over-reliance-on-its-services#:~:text=The%20fallout%20of%20Facebook’s%20unprecedented,m%20of%20the%20advertising%20dollars

https://www.theverge.com/2021/10/4/22709260/what-is-bgp-border-gateway-protocol-explainer-internet-facebook-outage

https://www.theverge.com/2021/10/5/22710539/facebook-whistleblower-hearing-instagram-child-safety-congress

https://www.theverge.com/2021/10/4/22709575/facebook-outage-instagram-whatsapp

https://www.theverge.com/2021/10/5/22710963/facebook-dns-bgp-outage-backbone-maintenance

https://abcnews.go.com/Technology/facebook-instagram-users-us/story?id=80397437

https://www.philstar.com/business/technology/2021/10/06/2132160/why-did-facebook-instagram-and-whatsapp-shut-down

https://www.cnn.com/2021/10/06/tech/facebook-frances-haugen-testimony/index.html

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