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‘Down again’: Second outage hits Facebook in one week

Company executive blames second outage on ‘configuration changes’ as users express frustration.

Facebook has acknowledged that its users around the world again had problems accessing its services for hours due to a tweak of its system, just days after a massive outage caused in a similar fashion.

“Sincere apologies to anyone who wasn’t able to access our products in the last couple of hours,” a Facebook spokesperson told the AFP news agency about 21:30 GMT on Friday.

“We fixed the issue, and everything should be back to normal now.”

Website trouble tracker DownDetector showed spikes in reports of problems accessing or using Facebook and its photo-centric Instagram network, as well as Messenger and WhatsApp starting about three hours earlier.

Facebook attributed the trouble to a configuration change at its computing platform and said that it affected users of the social network and Instagram, Messenger and Workplace globally.

People flocked to Twitter to voice frustration.

“What’s up with Instagram?” read a tweet that included a picture of cartoon character Bart Simpson sitting in a corner in apparent punishment.

“It’s not even 4 days and it’s already down again.”

“Problems with Instagram, Facebook, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp AGAIN!” read a lament in a DownDetector chat forum.

Another user posted on Twitter, “Looks like Facebook went to a 3-day work week. Monday and Friday shutdowns?”

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

Both the outages piled pressure on Facebook this week after a former employee turned whistleblower accused the company on Sunday of repeatedly prioritising profit over clamping down on hate speech and misinformation.

‘Configuration changes’

In an apologetic blog post, Santosh Janardhan, Facebook’s vice president of infrastructure, said that the second outage was caused by “configuration changes” on routers that coordinate network traffic between data centres.

Experts have said that problem on Monday boiled 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 said BGP was like “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.

Outages on Monday and Friday piled pressure on Facebook this week after a former-employee-turned-whistleblower accused the company on Sunday of prioritising profit over clamping down on hate speech and misinformation [File: Mandel Ngan-Pool/Getty via AFP]

It is 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.

The outage on Friday was not related to the one earlier in the week, according to Facebook.

Experts said Facebook’s technical infrastructure is unusually reliant on its own systems.

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.

Facebook’s services are crucial for many businesses around the world, and Facebook accounts are also commonly used to log in to other websites.

Facebook’s apps are used by billions of people monthly, meaning outages can touch a large portion of the world’s population.

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