Mark Zuckerberg’s personal wealth shed nearly $7 billion on Monday as three social media and messaging applications, Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp were down for more than six hours.
Facebook didn’t say what might have caused the outage, but reports suggest that the company had a Domain Name System (DNS) error on its main page. Some also speculate that the problem may have been caused by an internal error made by staff
After the outage, Zuckerberg noted on Facebook that the three social media apps were coming back online, and he was “sorry for the disruption”.
“I know how much you rely on our services to stay connected with the people you care about,” Zuckerberg wrote.
Separately, the company said that there is no evidence that user data was compromised because of the outage.
Aside from the affected tech companies and some 6.5 billion active customers worldwide, not everyone was as upset as you might think in a world obsessed with social media. After all, there’s always Twitter, which took full advantage of the situation. Twitter’s official account tweeted “Hello literally everyone”, after millions of social media users flocked to that platform.
Edward Snowden, former computer intelligence consultant and NSA whistleblower, tweeted that “Facebook and Instagram go mysteriously offline, and, for one shining day, the world becomes a healthier place”.
Despite losing billions on Monday, Zuckerberg’s “financial problems” have been mounting for a month. The social media tycoon has lost about $19 billion in the past month as Facebook lost about 15% since mid-September, not counting the 5% hit it took Monday.
Facebook’s outage came a day before former company’s employee and whistleblower Frances Haugen was set to testify before Congress.
The Wall Street Journal began publishing a series of stories called “Facebook Files”, reporting that the company knew about a wide range of problems with its products.
Haugen, a former product manager on Facebook’s civic integrity team who leaked that documentation, claims that Facebook’s own research shows how it “magnifies hate and misinformation, leads to increased polarization and that Instagram, specifically, can harm teenage girls' mental health”.
She also revealed that Facebook relaxed its standards on misinformation shortly ahead of the January 6th riots at the US Capitol.
In her opening remarks before the Congressional hearing, Haugen said she believes that Facebook's products harm children, stoke division, and weaken democracy.
“The company's leadership knows how to make Facebook and Instagram safer but won't make the necessary changes because they have put their astronomical profits before people. Congressional action is needed. They won't solve this crisis without your help," Haugen said.
She also said that a month ago she sent at least eight complaints to the SEC alleging that the company was hiding important research from investors and the public.
Haugen’s testimony came as politicians and regulators are increasing their interest in how Facebook and other social media companies stoke division and propagate misinformation.
In late March, Facebook, Twitter and Google testified before Congress about the ways their algorithms influence users and sometimes serve harmful misinformation.
Aside from lawmakers, Americans (even those who use the platform) believe that social media is not a positive thing. Recent Pew Research poll found that some two-thirds of Americans believe that social media is having a negative effect on the country. Just 10% say the platforms are having a positive effect. The disconnect (or hypocrisy) is clear, with 82% of the population in the United States owning a social media account.