Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp not working: How the social giant disappeared from the Internet

The Facebook service was restored after a nearly six-hour disruption to the company on Monday.

In a statementFacebook Vice President of Infrastructure Santosh Janardan said his services, including Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook itself, stopped working after a router configuration was changed incorrectly.

Internet outage tracker DownDetector said the Facebook bug was “one of the biggest ever tracked”, adding that it was “an extremely important event”.

Facebook said it does not believe the crash was the result of an external attack.

“We also have no evidence that user data was compromised as a result of this downtime,” Janardan wrote.

What killed Facebook?

As the outage continued, cybersecurity experts noticed that BGP—”edge gateway protocol”—routes to the Facebook network were being revoked.

BGP is a mechanism for routing data between networks on the Internet. If there is no BCP route, this effectively makes that network inaccessible from the outside.

“With these withdrawals, Facebook and its sites have effectively gone offline,” the web infrastructure service said. Cloudflare blogged about the incident.

computer scientist at Columbia University Stephen Bellovin suggested on Twitter about the situation faced by Facebook, stating that “If they can’t access their edge routers from within the company, a world of pain awaits them: people will have to physically go into these data centers and manually reconfigure everything.”

Facebook’s statement on the incident, while not explicitly citing BGP bugs as the culprit, states that “configuration changes on the backbone routers that coordinate network traffic between our data centers caused problems that interrupted that connection…stop.”

Security expert John Bambenek told The Associated Press that the way the online infrastructure is built makes these kinds of failures inevitable.

“The reality is that the Internet seems to be based on defective duct tape and chewing gum. So he’s doomed to fail. first place,” he said.

“Big Awakening”

The sheer scale of Facebook meant that the six-hour outage had consequences far beyond simply browsing social media.

Knitwear retailer Kendall Ross told The Associated Press that his business relied on Instagram to advertise its products, and that the service’s downfall resulted in a loss of sales.

“Today’s outage is financially disappointing,” he said. “It’s also a huge awakening that social media controls a lot of my business success.”

“The reason we’re talking about this is because of Facebook’s radical size and monopoly power,” Bambenek said, adding that the company is “really infiltrating with its tentacles not just our society, but many societies.”

Communication risks

Hacker and cybersecurity expert Rachel Tobeck told the AP that many people rely on Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram to communicate, which could leave them vulnerable to criminals taking advantage of Facebook’s downtime.

“They don’t know how to connect with the people in their lives without it,” she said. “They’re more susceptible to social engineering because they’re so desperate to connect.”

Tobac said there have been instances in previous outages where people clicked on malicious links in an attempt to regain access to social media, thereby exposing their personal details.

The WhatsApp messaging service, owned by Facebook, was also taken offline due to a glitch in the service, leaving users unable to make calls or send or receive messages.

Users who use Facebook to sign in to non-company services and websites and apps that use the Facebook ad network were also affected.


In a statement, Facebook also confirmed that the outage was extended due to the company’s reliance on its own servers for basic functions such as intercom and even access to offices and data centers.

On Monday, it was widely reported that Facebook employees were being barred from the company’s buildings because of internet-connected “smart” door locks that work with Facebook’s servers.

“The root cause of this failure also affected many of the internal tools and systems we use in our daily work, making it difficult for us to quickly diagnose and resolve the issue,” Janardan said.

Facebook’s reputation suffered

The shutdown of the service was another blow to Facebook, whose reputation has already been damaged by a series of allegations and leaked documents in recent weeks.

Frances Haugen, a former Facebook product engineer, has released numerous internal research documents that have raised concerns about the damage the company is allegedly doing to children’s mental health.

Haugen also accused the company of “(choosing) profit over safety” of its users, in an interview broadcast by CBS on Sunday.

On Wall Street, Facebook’s share price, which had already declined early in the session, accelerated its losses on Monday and fell nearly 6%, losing more than $50 billion (43 billion euros) in value.