Blackout puts the power of Facebook at the center

New York / Washington (dpa) – The complete blackout was annoying for billions of Facebook users, but it was over after six hours. It can still cause trouble for the online network itself.

Because the fact that WhatsApp and Instagram also went offline with the platform triggered new calls for the online giant to be smashed. On Tuesday, the appearance of a former employee in the US Senate increased the already massive political pressure on Facebook in the United States.

Senator Ed Markey, author of various laws on Internet regulation, judged unusually sharp Words to the address of Facebook’s founder and boss Mark Zuckerberg: “Your time of invading our privacy, spreading toxic content and raiding our children and teenagers is over.”

The US Congress will act, announced Markey. “You may or may not work with us – but we will no longer allow your company to harm our children, families and our democracy,” the Democrat scolded.

Demolition demanded

“Smash them now,” demanded the influential Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She pointed out that Instagram and WhatsApp would not have been affected if they had been prevented from being taken over by Facebook. With President Joe Biden, the Democrats hold the White House as well as narrow majorities in the House of Representatives and the Senate. But in the criticism of Facebook, Republicans and Democrats demonstrate rare unity.

The Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen called on politicians to provide insight into the functioning of the online network. “Facebook shapes our perception of the world by choosing the information we see,” she said. So far, however, only the company itself knows how to personalize the users’ newsfeed. And Facebook denies researchers and regulators access to it.

Some of the mechanisms have the potential to trigger addictive behavior, especially in younger users, warned Haugen. She accuses Facebook and the photo platform Instagram, among other things, of putting profits above the well-being of the user. Since Zuckerberg still controls the majority of the voting rights and therefore cannot be held accountable by investors, he is ultimately responsible for everything.

Unusually long blackout

On Monday, Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram were offline for an unusually long six hours. Facebook explained the malfunction with an incorrect configuration change that caused the data traffic between data centers to collapse. It was his own mistake, not the result of malicious activities.

The disruption was so difficult to get a grip on that, according to the New York Times, Facebook sent a team to its data center in Santa Clara, California had to send to try a «manual reset» of the server. It’s a bit like pressing the reset button on your PC at home because nothing works.

Facebook pointed out that internal systems were also affected by the failure – which is what caused it took longer to diagnose and fix the problem. This explanation coincides with the assumptions of experts who assumed a fault in the network infrastructure.

“To put it simply: The services of Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram are still there – but it is missing in the Internet, so to speak, the link there, ”says Rüdiger Trost from the IT security company F-Secure. “As if someone had removed the exit signs to the” places “Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook on a freeway.”

In total, around 3.5 billion people use at least one group service every month, 2 Billions even access it every day. Zuckerberg apologized to the users in a short Facebook post. WhatsApp boss Will Cathcart promised that we would learn from it.

Digital door locks also failed

On Facebook itself, in addition to the internal communication platform, digital door locks are sometimes also used in offices and other networked technology failed, wrote the New York Times. Two unnamed IT security experts from Facebook told the newspaper that a cyber attack was unlikely to trigger it. The online network officially declared that there was no evidence that user data was also affected.

The Facebook services were from around 18. 00 CEST no longer usable and went online again shortly before midnight. The head of technology at the cloud service provider Cloudflare, John Graham-Cumming, explained that users and software initially continued to try to control the services again and again. This put additional strain on the web infrastructure.

With the Facebook blackout, the hour of Twitter struck – and the Facebook competitor was aware of this. “Hello, literally everyone,” tweeted the account of the short message service, on which countless Facebook users romped about for hours.

Good for world peace

Twitter was on Monday full of jokes about how the disappearance of Facebook made everything better in one fell swoop – including world peace. “Hopefully Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp will never work again,” wrote the satirist Jan Böhmermann. NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden took the opportunity to recommend the Signal chat app as an alternative. This offers more data protection. Signal greeted on Monday Millions of new users.

Faults that can be traced back to network errors occur again and again on the web. In July, for example, one of them ensured that numerous pages were temporarily unavailable. The centralization of the network infrastructure at large providers also means that the failure of one company can tear many other services out of operation. At the beginning of June, numerous websites around the world were unavailable for around an hour after a cloud service malfunction.

Facebook had a large-scale outage in spring 2019 According to the group, it was due to an error in the server configuration. However, Monday’s disruption was extraordinary in extent and duration.

Are advertisers turning away?

One question is whether the outage will prompt Facebook advertisers to think about alternatives ponder. Because many small businesses around the world rely on Facebook to attract customers. For them, the disruption meant lost business. The Central Association of the German Advertising Industry (ZAW) stated that such a failure could still be compensated for for a short period of time.

Due to the problems with WhatsApp, many users in Germany resorted to the tried and tested SMS. Deutsche Telekom recorded eight times more short messages than usual, Telefónica and Vodafone reported three times as much.

Facebook shares closed on Monday with a minus of almost five percent. Even after that, the company was still worth around 920 billion dollars on the stock exchange. According to calculations by the Bloomberg financial service, Zuckerberg’s personal fortune shrank by more than six billion dollars within a few hours.

With another 121, 6 billion dollars, he slipped by one Place back to fifth behind Microsoft founder Bill Gates. After the disruption was resolved, the price of Facebook shares temporarily increased by 0.7 percent in pre-market trading on Tuesday.

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