The world stood at a standstill yesterday, the 4th of October, as Facebook, and its family of social media apps including Instagram and Whatsapp, experienced an outage that took the highly-used social media platforms offline for hours. The outage lasted for nearly 7 hours and incurred a loss of more than $6 billion on Facebook founder and Chief Executive Officer, Mark Zuckerberg.
Mark Zuckerberg is down from almost $140 billion and now stands with $120.9 billion in sixth place, behind Bill Gates on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index list of the world’s wealthiest people. A selloff sent the social-media giant’s stock plummeting 4.9 percent on Monday, adding to a drop of about 15 percent since mid-September. Hours before the outage, a whistleblower came forward and revealed her identity which also likely contributed to the outage.
The outage impacted many of Facebook’s 2.7 billion users, idled some of the company’s employees and prompted Mark Zuckerberg to apologize publicly. In a statement, he apologized to those affected by the outages saying, “The products and services we provide are relied upon by billions of individuals and businesses around the world. Our team will be working hard to restore our service as soon as possible.”
Mark Zuckerberg’s net worth was also affected by a series of stories published by the Wall Street Journal, based on a cache of internal documents it obtained from a whistleblower. The documents revealed that Facebook knew about a wide range of problems with its products — such as Instagram’s harm to teenage girls’ mental health and misinformation about the January 6 Capitol riots — while downplaying the issues in public.
The reports have drawn the attention of government officials, and on Monday, the whistleblower revealed herself. Frances Haugen, 37, revealed her identity after she applied for federal whistleblower protection. According to her, Facebook knew that if they changed the algorithm to be safer, people would spend less time on the site, and would click on fewer ads, resulting in less income for the company.
In response, Facebook emphasised that the issues facing its products, including political polarization, are complex and not caused by technology alone. “I think it gives people comfort to assume that there must be a technological or a technical explanation for the issues of political polarisation in the United States,” Nick Clegg, Facebook’s Vice President of global affairs, told CNN.
The outage is the longest failure ever experienced by Facebook. In its analysis of 10 million reports worldwide, Downdetector, which monitors internet problems, said that there was no outage comparable to that of Facebook. According to Facebook, the outage was the result of a configuration change to its routers — not of a hack or attempt to steal data.