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Facebook blames ‘misconfiguration change’ for a nearly 6-hour blackout

FILE PHOTO: Various gamers silhouetted a human figure in front of the Facebook logo in this illustrative photo taken on October 4, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Rovich

By Subrat Patnaik, Eva Mathews and Sheila Dang

Oct 4 (Reuters) – Facebook Inc blamed a “wrong configuration change” for about six hours of a blackout on Monday that prevented the company’s 3.5 billion users from accessing social media and messaging services such as WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger.

In a statement published late Monday, the US company did not specify who made the configuration change and whether it was planned.

Several Facebook employees who declined to be named told Reuters earlier that they believed the power outage was caused by an internal error in the way internet traffic was routed to their systems.

Employees said that failures in internal communication tools and other resources that depend on the same network to function compound the error. Several security experts said that both inadvertent error and insider sabotage were reasonable.

“We want to make it clear at this time that we believe the main cause of this outage is a misconfiguration change,” Facebook said in its statement.

The Facebook outage is the largest ever recorded by web monitoring group Downdetector.

With the world turning to rival apps like Twitter and TikTok, Facebook shares fell 4.9%, their biggest daily drop since last November, amid a flurry of tech stock sales on Monday’s Wall Street session. Shares rose about half a percentage point in post-closing trading after the service resumed.

“To all small and large businesses, families and individuals who depend on us, I am sorry,” Mike Schroeber, Facebook’s chief technology officer, said on Twitter, adding that “it may take some time to reach 100%.”

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“Facebook left the keys in its car,” tweeted Jonathan Zittrain, director of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University.

Twitter reported higher than normal usage on Monday, causing some issues with people accessing posts and direct messages.

Facebook, the world’s largest seller of online ad space after Google, lost about $545,000 in US ad revenue per hour during the outage, according to estimates by ad measurement firm Standard Media Index.

However, previous recessions for Internet companies have not had a long-term impact on their revenue growth.

Facebook services, including consumer apps like Instagram, business tools it sells to businesses and in-house software, went offline at noon US EST (1600 GMT). Arrivals began returning around 5:45 PM EST.

Shortly after the outage began, Facebook acknowledged that users were having trouble accessing its apps, but did not say what the nature of the problem was or how many users were affected.

An error message on Facebook suggested a bug in the Domain Name System (DNS), which allows web addresses to transport users to their destinations. A similar outage at cloud company Akamai Technologies Inc disrupted several websites in July.

(Information from Eva Mathews and Subrat Patnaik in Bengaluru; Additional information from Tiyashi Datta, Nivedita Balu and Aakriti Bhalla in Bengaluru, Joseph Menn and Paresh Dave in San Francisco and Sheila Dang in Dallas; Editing by Uttaresh.V, Shailesh Kuber, Anil D Silva Sonia Hepstel and Sriraj Kalovila; translated by Jose Muñoz in the Gdansk office)