Why Did Facebook, Instagram And WhatsApp Shut Down?

This file photo taken on October 5, 2020, shows logos of US social networks Facebook, Instagram and mobile messaging service WhatsApp on the screens of a smartphone and a tablet in Toulouse, southwestern France. Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP
This file photo taken on October 5, 2020, shows logos of US social networks Facebook, Instagram and mobile messaging service WhatsApp on the screens of a smartphone and a tablet in Toulouse, southwestern France. Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP

 

Hundreds of millions of people were unable to access Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp for more than six hours on Monday, underscoring the world’s reliance on platforms owned by the Silicon Valley giant.

But what actually caused the outage?

What does Facebook say happened? 

In an apologetic blog post, Santosh Janardhan, Facebook’s vice president of infrastructure, said that “configuration changes on the backbone routers that coordinate network traffic between our data centres caused issues that interrupted this communication”.

Facebook explained Tuesday the outage was “caused not by malicious activity, but an error of our own making.”

Can you explain that in plain English? –

Cyber experts think the problem boils down to something called BGP, or Border Gateway Protocol — the system the internet uses to pick the quickest route to move packets of information around.

Sami Slim of data centre company Telehouse compared BGP to “the internet equivalent of air traffic control”.

In the same way that air traffic controllers sometimes make changes to flight schedules, “Facebook did an update of these routes,” Slim said.

But this update contained a crucial error.

It’s not yet clear how or why, but Facebook’s routers essentially sent a message to the internet announcing that the company’s servers no longer existed.

Why did it take so long to fix the problem? 

Experts say Facebook’s technical infrastructure is unusually reliant on its own systems — and that proved disastrous on Monday.

After Facebook sent the fateful routing update, its engineers got locked out of the system that would allow them to communicate that the update had, in fact, been an error. So they couldn’t fix the problem.

“Normally it’s good not to put all your eggs in one basket,” said Pierre Bonis of AFNIC, the association that manages domain names in France.

“For security reasons, Facebook has had to very strongly concentrate its infrastructure,” he said.

“That streamlines things on a daily basis — but because everything is in the same place, when that place has a problem, nothing works.”

The knock-on effects of the shutdown included some Facebook employees being unable to even enter their buildings because their security badges no longer worked, further slowing the response.

 Is this unprecedented? 

Social media outages are not uncommon: Instagram alone has experienced more than 80 in the past year in the United States, according to website builder ToolTester.

This week’s Facebook outage was rare in its length and scale, however.

There is also a precedent for BGP meddling being at the root of a social media shutdown.

In 2008, when a Pakistani internet service provider was attempting to block YouTube for domestic users, it inadvertently shut down the global website for several hours.

– And the outage’s impact? –
Between Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, “billions of users have been impacted by the services being entirely offline”, the Downdetector tracking service said.

Facebook, whose shares fell nearly five percent over the outage, has stressed there is “no evidence that user data was compromised as a result of this downtime”.

But even though it lasted just a few hours, the impact of the shutdown ran deep.

Facebook’s services are crucial for many businesses around the world, and users complained of being cut off from their livelihoods.

Facebook accounts are also commonly used to log in to other websites, which faced additional problems due to the company’s technical meltdown.

Rival instant messaging services, meanwhile, reported that they had benefited from the fact that WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger were down.

Telegram went from the 56th-most downloaded free app in the United States to the fifth, according to monitoring firm SensorTower, while Signal tweeted that “millions” of new users had joined.

And among the more curious side-effects, several domain name registration companies listed Facebook.com as available for purchase.

“There was never any reason to believe Facebook.com would actually be sold as a result, but it’s fun to consider how many billions of dollars it could fetch on the open market,” said cyber security expert Brian Krebs.

AFP

Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp Hit By Massive Outage

This file photo taken on October 5, 2020, shows logos of US social networks Facebook, Instagram and mobile messaging service WhatsApp on the screens of a smartphone and a tablet in Toulouse, southwestern France. Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP
This file photo taken on October 5, 2020, shows logos of US social networks Facebook, Instagram and mobile messaging service WhatsApp on the screens of a smartphone and a tablet in Toulouse, southwestern France. Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP

 

Major social media services including Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp were hit by a massive outage on Monday, tracking sites showed, impacting potentially tens of millions of users.

Outage tracker Downdetector was showing outages in heavily populated areas like Washington and Paris, with problems being reported from around 1545 GMT.

Users trying to access Facebook in affected areas were greeted with the message: “Something went wrong. We’re working on it and we’ll get it fixed as soon as we can.”

“We’re aware that some people are having trouble accessing our apps and products,” Facebook spokesman Andy Stone said on Twitter.

The outage comes a day after a whistleblower went on US television to reveal her identity after she leaked a trove of documents to authorities alleging the social media giant knew its products were fueling hate and harming children’s mental health.

READ ALSO: Russia Fines Facebook, Twitter Over Banned Content

Frances Haugen, a 37-year-old data scientist from Iowa, has worked for companies including Google and Pinterest — but said in an interview with CBS news show “60 Minutes” that Facebook was “substantially worse” than anything she had seen before.

The world’s largest social media platform has been embroiled in a firestorm brought about by Haugen, with US lawmakers and The Wall Street Journal detailing how Facebook knew its products, including Instagram, were harming young girls, especially around body image.

Facebook did not immediately reply to a request for comment on the outage.

AFP

TikTok Ramps Up Privacy Protection For Teens

This photo, taken on July 2, 2021, shows the TikTok logo displayed on a mobile phone screen. Taiwo Adeshina/Channels Television.
This photo, taken on July 2, 2021, shows the TikTok logo displayed on a mobile phone screen. Taiwo Adeshina/Channels Television.

 

TikTok became the latest tech company Thursday to announce tighter protections for teenagers as social media platforms come under increased scrutiny over their privacy safeguards.

The short video-sharing app will roll out a number of features in the coming months, including a default curb for 16 and 17-year-olds on in-app messaging unless it is switched to a different setting.

Under 16s will see a pop-up message when they publish their first video, asking them to choose who can watch.

And users aged 16 and 17 will be able to receive a pop-up asking them to confirm who can download their videos. Downloads are already disabled on content posted by under 16s.

The Chinese-owned platform will also stop sending push notifications to users aged 13 to 16 from 9pm — and an hour later for 16 to 17-year-olds — with the aim of reducing their screen time at night.

The moves announced by head of child safety public policy Alexandra Evans and global head of privacy Aruna Sharma build on previous measures to protect young users from predators, bullies and other online dangers.

“It’s important to ensure even stronger proactive protections to help keep teens safe, and we’ve continually introduced changes to support age-appropriate experiences on our platform,” Evans and Sharma said.

“We want to help our younger teens in particular develop positive digital habits early on.”


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In this file photo illustration taken on November 21, 2019, the logo of the social media video sharing app Tiktok is displayed on a tablet screen in Paris. (Photo by Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP)

 

Google, YouTube and Facebook-Instagram have all recently bolstered defenses for teen users, while critics have been urging Facebook to abandon plans for a children’s version of Instagram.

TikTok was the world’s most downloaded app last year, overtaking Facebook and its messaging platforms, according to market tracker App Annie.

The video app surged in popularity, according to market tracker App Annie, despite efforts by former president Donald Trump to ban it or force a sale to US-based investors.

AFP

‘I Quit!’ Says Britney Spears In New, Furious Instagram Post

File Photo

 

Britney Spears, in a furious Instagram post, said she has “quit” doing live performances and slammed her father’s control over her affairs.

For weeks the pop superstar has been pleading with a judge in Los Angeles to free her from the years-long conservatorship largely governed by her father, Jamie, ramping up worldwide interest in her case.

Late Saturday she took to Instagram in a new, public demonstration of her anger.

“I’m not gonna be performing on any stages anytime soon with my dad handling what I wear, say, do, or think,” she wrote.

Instead, she said, she will share her own dance videos “from my living room” instead of from a stage in Las Vegas.

“I quit !!!!” she wrote.

Spears, who rocketed to fame in her teens, suffered a highly public 2007 breakdown — when the shaven-headed star attacked a paparazzo’s car at a gas station.

The following year, a California court placed her under a unique legal guardianship largely governed by her father.

Spears swiftly returned to performing after that, released three albums, appeared on various television shows and even took up the Las Vegas residency she referenced in the Instagram post.

But in January 2019, she abruptly announced she was suspending her performances until further notice.

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And then last month, the singer made an impassioned plea for her situation to change, alleging that she had been prevented from having a contraceptive IUD removed, despite wanting more children, and forcefully put on medication that made her feel “drunk.”

Spears said she had been made to perform shows under threat of lawsuit, and that she was not even allowed to get changed in privacy or drive her own car.

“My so-called support system hurt me deeply !!!! This conservatorship killed my dreams … so all I have is hope and hope is the only thing in this world that is very hard to kill … yet people still try !!!!” she wrote Saturday.

Spears also referenced recent documentaries about her plight that have helped fuel a reckoning about the entertainment industry’s treatment of young, female pop stars.

“I didn’t like the way the documentaries bring up humiliating moments from the past … I’m way past all that and have been for a long time!” she wrote.

On Wednesday Spears scored a major victory in her legal battle after a judge ruled she could appoint her own lawyer.

The lawyer appointed by a court following her breakdown had asked to step down from his role, as had the financial management company that was set to assume joint control of her estate with her father.

Spears’s longtime manager Larry Rudolph has also quit.

Her father, however, has signalled that he will not step down voluntarily.

Spears has lots of public support, from fans chanting outside the courtroom to her musical peers Christina Aguilera and Madonna to the massive #FreeBritney movement on social media.

AFP

Facebook Wins Antitrust Dismissal, Surges To $1 Trillion Value

In this file illustration photo taken on March 25, 2020, a Facebook app logo is displayed on a smartphone in Arlington, Virginia. Olivier DOULIERY / AFP
In this file illustration photo taken on March 25, 2020, a Facebook app logo is displayed on a smartphone in Arlington, Virginia. Olivier DOULIERY / AFP

 

A US judge on Monday dismissed the blockbuster antitrust action against Facebook filed last year by federal and state regulators, helping lift the value of the social media giant above $1 trillion for the first time.

Judge James Boasberg of the US District Court of Washington, DC dismissed the cases filed in December by the Federal Trade Commission and more than 40 states, which could have rolled back Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram and the messaging platform WhatsApp.

The federal lawsuit “failed to plead enough facts to plausibly establish a necessary element… that Facebook has monopoly power in the market for personal social networking services,” the judge said in a 53-page opinion, while allowing authorities the opportunity to refile the case.

In lawsuits filed in December that were consolidated in federal court, US and state officials called for the divestment of Instagram and WhatsApp, arguing that Facebook had acted to “entrench and maintain its monopoly to deny consumers the benefits of competition.”

The judge issued a separate opinion dismissing the case by the states, saying attorneys general had waited too long to bring the case for the acquisition of Instagram in 2012 and WhatsApp in 2014.

The judge said the FTC complaint “says almost nothing concrete on the key question of how much power Facebook actually had… it is almost as if the agency expects the court to simply nod to the conventional wisdom that Facebook is a monopolist.”

The federal agency based its case on a “vague” assertion that Facebook controlled more than 60 percent of the social networking market, but the FTC “does not even allege what it is measuring.”

Boasberg wrote that “the market at issue here is unusual in a number of ways, including that the products therein are not sold for a price… the court is thus unable to understand exactly what the agency’s ’60 percent-plus’ figure is even referring to, let alone able to infer the underlying facts that might substantiate it.”

Still he ruled that “this defect could conceivably be overcome by re-pleading,” allowing the federal agency the possibility of refiling the action.

Facebook shares surged after the decision, lifting the company’s market valuation above $1 trillion for the first time.

– ‘We compete fairly’ –

In a statement, the company said, “We are pleased that today’s decisions recognize the defects in the government complaints filed against Facebook. We compete fairly every day to earn people’s time and attention and will continue to deliver great products for the people and businesses that use our services.”

The ruling comes a week after a US congressional panel advanced legislation that would lead to a sweeping overhaul of antitrust laws and give more power to regulators to break up large tech firms, specifically aiming at Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple.

The actions come amid growing concerns on the power of major tech firms, which have increasingly dominated key economic sectors and have seen steady growth during the pandemic.

Critics of Facebook said the rulings highlight the need to revise antitrust laws for the internet age.

“This is a setback — not the end — in the FTC’s fight against dominant Big Tech monopolies like Facebook,” said Charlotte Slaiman of the consumer group Public Knowledge.

“The FTC should continue this important work, as the judge has indicated the agency can still file a new complaint if it can address these concerns. At the same time, Congress’ ongoing work to pass new laws and rules to address the power of Big Tech, as well as broader antitrust reforms, is now especially important and urgent.”

AFP

Facebook And Instagram To Let Users Hide ‘Like’ Counts

 

 

Facebook and Instagram on Wednesday announced plans to let users stop displaying “like” tallies racked up by posts, letting people opt out of seeking status through the approval of others.

The two platforms will let users shun ‘like’ counts completely or just keep such tallies to themselves, according to Instagram chief Adam Mosseri.

“People will be able to decide if they want to see like counts or not,” Mosseri said in a briefing.

Tools being added to the services will let users turn off “like” features on individual posts or all of them, according to Mosseri.

He expected small creators trying to win fans to be most averse to eliminating “likes,” since they are typically trying to boost their popularity by showing how many people endorse their posts.

A test of the option showed that some people shared more posts when the potential for them to be judged by viewers was removed, according to Mosseri.

Instagram has dabbled with letting users hide “like” counts.

“In 2019, we started hiding like counts for a small group of people to understand if it lessens some pressure when posting to Instagram,” a Facebook spokesperson told AFP in April.

“Some people found this beneficial but some still wanted to see like counts so they could track what’s popular.”

Running tallies of how many people signal they like posts at social networks can be seen as status symbols or indicators of worth, raising mental health concerns

Some experts say the insatiable quest for “likes” can be addictive and have devastating effects, particularly for younger people.

Facebook said that it has been working with experts to understand how design tweaks such as the one being tested at Instagram can support well-being of users while providing control over how they engage with the service.

Instagram Lets Users Pick Preferred Gender Pronouns

This picture taken on September 28, 2020 shows the logo of the social network Instagram on a smartphone and a tablet screen in Toulouse, southwestern France.  (Photo by Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP)

 

 

Instagram on Wednesday began letting English-language users enhance profiles to show new gender pronouns they want to be applied to them in conversation.

The photo-centric social network became the latest internet service to broaden beyond basic “he” or “she” references to pronouns preferred by those with alternate gender identities.

“Add pronouns to your profile,” Instagram said in a tweet.

“The new field is available in a few countries, with plans for more.”

Instagram users can opt to have pronoun choices shown publicly, or just to friends at the service, according to a demonstration of the option by AFP in the United States.

Pronoun options included “them” and “theirs” along with nonbinary “co,” “ze” and others shared at a resource center page at the University of California, Davis, website.

“We are giving people more tools to express themselves on Instagram,” the Facebook-owned service said in response to an AFP inquiry.

“Sharing pronouns has been widely adopted by our community, and with this feature we hope to normalize the adoption further.”

Instagram added that it consulted with advocacy groups on pronoun options.

The addition to Instagram profiles was rolled out globally in English, with work being done to expand to other languages, according to Instagram.

Davido Hits 20 Million Instagram Followers, Becomes Most Followed African Artiste

Davido

 

Multi-award-winning musician, David Adeleke, popularly known as Davido, has hit 20 million followers on Instagram.

The musician is now the most followed artiste not just in Nigeria but on the Facebook-owned platform.

Davido boasts of more followers than two of Nigeria’s biggest music artistes, Wizkid and Burna Boy.

While Wizkid has about 2.1 million followers, the self-acclaimed African Giant, Burnaboy has gathered 6.6 million followers.

The DMW boss took to his page to celebrate his latest milestone.

He recently featured in Zlatan Ibile’s new album titled: “CHO CHO”, and celebrated the feat by posting the cover of the album.

He captioned the post: “20M FOLLOWERS!! FUCK IT NEW MUSIC TONITE!! @zlatan_ibile x OBO x @iammayorkun ‘CHO CHO’ prod by @p.priime.”

 

WhatsApp, Instagram And Facebook Messenger Suffer Downtime

This file photo taken on October 5, 2020, shows logos of US social networks Facebook, Instagram and mobile messaging service WhatsApp on the screens of a smartphone and a tablet in Toulouse, southwestern France. Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP
This file photo taken on October 5, 2020, shows logos of US social networks Facebook, Instagram and mobile messaging service WhatsApp on the screens of a smartphone and a tablet in Toulouse, southwestern France. Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP

 

Social media platforms WhatsApp, Instagram, and Facebook Messenger all went down in a brief outage at around 1730 GMT on Friday, according to the tech monitoring website Downdetector.

However, shortly after 1800 GMT, several WhatsApp users said on social media that they were able to again send messages on the platform.

Instagram also came back after about an hour.

READ ALSO: Twitter Seeks Users’ Opinions On How To Treat World Leaders

All three sites belong to US social giant Facebook, which attributed the outage to unspecified “technical issues” and apologized to users.

The Facebook-owned apps, which have some three billion users worldwide, report occasional outages, including one last July, which often spark an array of comments on other social platforms.

 

 

Instagram Boosts Child Protection Tools, Including Age Prediction

This picture taken on September 28, 2020, shows the logo of the social network Instagram on a smartphone and a tablet screen. (Photo by Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP)

 

Facebook-owned Instagram unveiled technology Tuesday aimed at preventing underage children from creating accounts and blocking adults from contacting young users they don’t know.

It was the latest move responding to concerns about inappropriate contact between adults and children on the platform, which like most services sets an age minimum of 13.

Instagram will begin using artificial intelligence to determine a user’s age at signup in an effort to find underage users.

“While many people are honest about their age, we know that young people can lie about their date of birth. We want to do more to stop this from happening, but verifying people’s age online is complex and something many in our industry are grappling with,” a blog post said.

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“To address this challenge, we’re developing new artificial intelligence and machine learning technology to help us keep teens safer and apply new age-appropriate features.”

Additionally, the California giant said it would introduce a new feature that prevents adults from sending messages to people under 18 who don’t follow them, to prevent unwanted contact.

“This feature relies on our work to predict peoples’ ages using machine learning technology, and the age people give us when they sign up,” Instagram said.

Instagram is also looking at ways to make it more difficult for adults who have been exhibiting “potentially suspicious behavior” to interact with teens, including restricting these adults from seeing suggested teen accounts.

The image-focused network indicated it will alert teens to potentially suspect behavior by adults, including the sending of large numbers of private messages.

“We’ll use this tool to alert the recipients… and give them an option to end the conversation, or block, report, or restrict the adult,” Instagram said.

AFP

Facebook Anti-trust Suits Seek To Separate Instagram, Whatsapp

 

US federal and state anti-trust enforcers filed suit against Facebook on Wednesday claiming the social media giant abused its dominant position with its acquisitions of messaging services Instagram and WhatsApp.

Separate suits filed by the Federal Trade Commission and a coalition of state officials called for the divestment of Instagram and WhatsApp, services which have billions of users and are part of the Facebook “family” of applications.

“Facebook’s actions to entrench and maintain its monopoly deny consumers the benefits of competition,” said Ian Conner, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition.

“Our aim is to roll back Facebook’s anticompetitive conduct and restore competition so that innovation and free competition can thrive.”

A separate legal action was filed by state antitrust enforcers from 48 US states and territories.

“For nearly a decade, Facebook has used its dominance and monopoly power to crush smaller rivals and snuff out competition, all at the expense of everyday users,” said New York state Attorney General Letitia James, who leads the coalition.

“Facebook used its power to suppress competition so it could take advantage of users and make billions by converting personal data into a cash cow.”

The suits allege Facebook sought to squelch competition by acquiring the messaging applications — Instagram in 2012 and WhatsApp in 2014.

The action presages a fierce court battle seeking to force Facebook to divest the apps which have become an increasingly important element of the business model of the California giant and integrated into its technology.

Facebook said it would offer a detailed response after reviewing the cases but added: “Years after the FTC cleared our acquisitions, the government now wants a do-over with no regard for the impact that precedent would have on the broader business community or the people who choose our products every day.”

Data Advantages

The case is likely to hinge not only on Facebook’s share of social media users but the vast troves of data it collects from some three billion users worldwide.

“Facebook has been spending its time surveilling users’ personal information and profiting from it,” James said.

“No company should have this much unchecked power over our personal information, and our social interactions.”

Tiffany Li, a Boston University law professor who studies the sector, said that while Facebook has rivals bidding for internet users’ attention it has a big advantage because of its access to data.

“One company owning multiple platforms is not, in itself, necessarily a bar to competition,” Li said on Twitter.

“However, one company having exclusive ownership of vast amounts of user data, with no potential for interoperability or access to competitors, can be anti-competitive.”

Li added that new startups “have an uphill battle to reach users due to network effects, even if they have better products.”

The FTC announced earlier this year it would review acquisitions made by five Big Tech firms over the past decade, opening the door to a wave of potential antitrust investigations.

The consumer protection agency said it would review deals made by Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and Google parent Alphabet since 2010 amid growing complaints about tech platforms which have dominated key economic sectors.

The US Justice Department, which shares antitrust enforcement with the FTC, in October sued Google parent Alphabet, accusing the Silicon Valley giant of maintaining an “illegal monopoly” in online search and advertising and opening the door to a potential breakup. Eleven US states joined that case.

Scrutiny has been increasing for the large tech firms which have extended their dominance in recent years, including during the global pandemic as more people turn to internet platforms for goods and services.

Vatican Vows To Get To The Bottom Of Racy Papal Instagram ‘Like’

Pope Francis takes off his face mask as he arrives by car to hold a limited public audience at the San Damaso courtyard in The Vatican on September 9, 2020 during the COVID-19 infection, caused by the novel coronavirus. (Photo by Vincenzo PINTO / AFP)

 

The Vatican has launched an investigation into how Pope Francis’s Instagram account “liked” a raunchy photograph of a Brazilian bikini model with her bottom on display, an official said Friday.

Natalia Garibotto, 27, posed in a white cropped top, suspenders and the smallest of tartan skirts for a naughty school girl picture that was given the thumbs up by the official Franciscus account last week.

“I’m going to heaven,” the blonde model tweeted after an eagle-eyed fan snapped a screenshot of the “like”.

It was removed a day later by the Vatican’s social media team, which tweets or likes on the pontiff’s behalf.

“The issue is currently being investigated in close contact with Instagram,” a Vatican official told AFP, after speculation someone in the social media team could accidentally have liked the picture while logged in as Francis.

Francis has 7.4 million Instagram followers, but does not follow any other profiles and does not appear to have “liked” anything else.

 

 

-AFP