Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp back online after suffering worldwide outage

Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp are back online after experiencing a worldwide outage on Monday that lasted throughout most of the day.

Service began resuming for some users at around 6 p.m. EDT. The outages left people around the world unable to communicate on the platforms for more than six hours

Facebook released an update late Monday night stating that configuration changes on the backbone routers that co-ordinate network traffic between the company's data centres was the cause of the outage. The changes disrupted communication between the data centres, which halted services.

The company said there is "no evidence that user data was compromised as a result" of the outage and that it is still working to understand more about its cause.

According to the website DownDetector, users began reporting outage issues at around 11:20 a.m. EDT.

Many users got an "IP address could not be found" message when trying to load Facebook, while Instagram and WhatsApp users couldn't refresh their feeds or send any new messages on those apps. Instagram and WhatsApp are owned by Facebook.

"To the huge community of people and businesses around the world who depend on us: we're sorry," Facebook said on Twitter. "We've been working hard to restore access to our apps and services and are happy to report they are coming back online now. Thank you for bearing with us."

The outage also impacted many of Facebook's internal tools and systems, which hindered recovery efforts, according to the company.

"We have seen things like this happen before. But they've been very localized, they've been in particular regions or within particular platforms," cybersecurity expert Ritesh Kotak told CTV News Channel on Monday. "I can't remember a time where there was a global outage of all three platforms where everything just completely shut down."

Kotak said the problem seemed to be that Facebook's Domain Name System (DNS) records had either been deleted or changed. The internet's DNS is what translates a web address such as "Facebook.com" and directs users to the correct IP address. If the company's DNS records were deleted or changed, any associated apps and web addresses wouldn't be able to locate the platforms.

"DNS is a really critical service," tech analyst Carmi Levy told CTV News Channel on Monday. "If a company like Facebook, which has multiple services attached to it, Instagram, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, if it doesn't manage its DNS addressing properly … it's almost like it ceases to exist. All of those addresses gone. Anyone who tries to reach out, either to the website or through an app or any other service, they're just going to get nothing."

The problem was likely a result of human error and not foul play, Kotak said.

Adding insult to injury, Facebook shares took a tumble Monday. On top of the outages, the company is in the midst of a public image crisis.

Whistleblower Frances Haugen, a former Facebook product manager, provided The Wall Street Journal with internal documents that she says exposes Facebook's awareness of harms caused by its products and decisions. Haugen went public on Sunday's episode of "60 Minutes" and is scheduled to testify before a U.S. Senate subcommittee on Tuesday.

Haugen also revealed herself to be the anonymous person who filed complaints with federal law enforcement alleging 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.

"Today's outage, even if it has no connection at all to this testimony of the whistleblower, Frances Haugen, it could not have come at a worse time," Levy said. "Investors, of course, are looking at it and going, 'We're out of here.'"

Facebook shares fell 4.9 per cent Monday following the outage, down to US$326.23.

With files from CTVNews.ca Producer Sonja Puzic and The Associated Press

To the huge community of people and businesses around the world who depend on us: we're sorry. We’ve been working hard to restore access to our apps and services and are happy to report they are coming back online now. Thank you for bearing with us.

— Facebook (@Facebook) October 4, 2021