An hours-long outage that affected Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp will have a minimal impact, however, the timing of the incident raises questions because it coincides with whistleblower reports that exposed the company engages in unethical practices, University of Florida social media professor, Andrew Selepak, told Sputnik.
Over the past few weeks, Frances Haugen, a former product manager at Facebook who left the company in May, revealed thousands of pages of corporate inquiry showing that Facebook hid evidence of its platforms spreading harmful information and lied about it.
“I don’t think it [the outages] will necessarily have a long-term impact but I think people have to question exactly the timing of this because of the story that just came out,” Selepak said on Monday. “The timing seems to be a little bit inconvenient for Facebook right now and we’ll have to wait and see exactly what the cause of it was.”
The outage, which began around 11:30 a.m. EST (3:30 p.m. GMT), impacted Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp users worldwide. The users of some other messengers, including Telegram, were also affected. The outage was reportedly caused by a border gateway protocol (BGP) update.
On Monday night, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger are coming back online.
Selepak predicts Facebook will determine the issue was caused by an issue with a Domain Name System server and that it will be resolved. Selepak added that the whistleblower’s revelations were not surprising as well.
“If there is any malicious side to this, it probably has a better chance of coming from people working within the company,” Selepak said. “If Facebook is now seen as this platform that stirs up negative emotions, causes political partisanship, there might be an individual or a small handful of individuals who decided to take it upon themselves to limit the negative impact that Facebook can have, but right now it’s probably a little bit too early to know exactly what caused it.”
Earlier in the day, the Pentagon and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) told Sputnik they had no comment concerning the outage that affected Facebook services and referred all inquiries to the company since it is a private asset.
Selepak also said the US government may not be as concerned about the Facebook outage compared to the Colonial Pipeline outage in May, which caused a major national security concern.
“I think from a government perspective, unless there is hacking being done by an outside entity, a nefarious outside government, the impact of Facebook and Instagram being down for a few hours really has a pretty limited impact on the day-to-day working of the average person,” Selepak said. “Without the whistleblower story having just come out, I don’t think it’s as big of a story as it would be.”
The Facebook whistleblower joined the social media giant in 2019 to deal with misinformation but got increasingly frustrated by the company’s way of tackling the problem. The whistleblower said she believes Facebook’s connivance to spread misinformation was among the factors that led to the January 6 riot in Washington following the US presidential election. Facebook has denied the allegations.