Social media giant Facebook and its subsidiary platforms WhatsApp and Instagram suffered a global outage on early morning Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021 in the Philippines (midday Monday in the US), affecting billions of users worldwide.
The outage was described by the Guardian, a British daily newspaper, as one of Facebook’s worst outages in its history. The services slowly came back online.
Facebook said “the root cause of this outage was a faulty configuration change” and that there is “no evidence that user data was compromised as a result” of the outage, the Associated Press (AP) reported.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg posted an apology on his official page, saying: “Sorry for the disruption today–I know how much you rely on our services to stay connected with the people you care about.”
AP reported that “Facebook was already in the throes of a separate major crisis after whistleblower Frances Haugen, a former Facebook product manager, provided The Wall Street Journal with internal documents that exposed the company’s awareness of harms caused by its products and decisions. Haugen went public on CBS’s ‘60 Minutes’ program Sunday (Monday in Philippine Time) and is scheduled to testify before a Senate subcommittee Tuesday (Wednesday in Philippine Time).”
Before revealing herself in the CBS television program, Haugen had filed complaints against Facebook, her former employer, before federal authorities in the US. “The complaints say Facebook’s own research shows that it amplifies hate, misinformation and political unrest—but the company hides what it knows. One complaint alleges that Facebook’s Instagram harms teenage girls,” cbsnews.com reported.
The social networking service founded by Zuckerberg and his roommates at Harvard College in 2004 was also involved in a data privacy scandal. In the 2010s, British consulting firm Cambridge Analytica collected data from millions of Facebook users without their consent. The data was used primarily for targeted political advertisement.
Facebook is immensely popular in the Philippines. It is used by the young and the old to connect with old friends. Its Messenger app is used as an instant communication channel in workplaces, classrooms and households.
Joining Facebook costs not a single cent. But it does not mean it gives the social media giant the freedom to invade its users’ privacy without their consent.
Facebook has a lot of issues to address and answer, including the whistleblower Haugen’s complaints.
As to the global outage, Facebook must also give a clear explanation, not the vague “faulty configuration change.” Unclear messages could breed conspiracy theories.