Facebook employees were unable to access critical work tools during six-hour outage

 Facebook employees and contractors complained Monday that they were unable to log on to their work accounts during the company’s worst service outage since 2008.

The outage, which lasted six hours Monday, not only made it impossible for the company’s 3 billion-plus users to access Facebook and its Instagram and WhatsApp services, it also affected internal systems for employees, some workers told CNBC.

Specifically, employees said the outage was preventing them from accessing the tools they use to track information, such as how many people are using certain services, as well as internal chat functions. The workers requested anonymity because they were discussing internal confidential matters.

The outage was so bad that engineers who were tasked with helping resolve service issues were unable to even log on and get involved to fix the problems, one person familiar with the situation told CNBC.

The outage comes a day after Frances Hague, a former product manager on Facebook’s civic integrity team, revealed herself to be the whistleblower behind the numerous internal documents cited in The Wall Street Journal’s “The Facebook Files” series of reports.

One Instagram employee told CNBC that some employees were saying the outage was karma for the recent whistleblower ordeal. The employee added that they felt bad for any creators or brands who had ad campaigns scheduled to roll out on Monday.

Workers have to be online every five minutes to see if something has changed, creating a stressful environment for them, one Facebook contractor told CNBC.

In a text message, a spokesman for the company said his email was not working and directed CNBC to a tweet from Facebook Chief Technology Officer Mike Schroepfer as the company’s official statement on the matter.

″*Sincere* apologies to everyone impacted by outages of Facebook-powered services right now” tweeted Schroepfer, who last month announced his resignation from the company. “We are experiencing networking issues and teams are working as fast as possible to debug and restore as fast as possible.”

Mark Zuckerberg can’t catch a break lately. The Facebook (FB.O) boss wants to turn the two-dimensional internet into a metaverse where “instead of just viewing content, you are in it,” according to an interview with the Verge. But hot on the heels of an exposé of some uncomfortable internal documents provided by a whistleblower who is about to appear before the U.S. Congress, his entire company went dark on two-dimensional screens.

The Facebook and Instagram social networks, plus messaging service WhatsApp, were kaput for hours on Monday. It’s easy to dismiss the $920 billion company’s advertising-funded outlets as vehicles for cat pictures and selfies. But plenty of folks, including government officials, rely on WhatsApp as a primary means of communication. And Facebook is the main way some businesses reach customers. So the outage matters.

It raises all kinds of questions, like how – according to the Krebs on Security website – someone inside Facebook deleted key data that helps computers find the company’s destinations online. It also brings into sharp focus the lightly regulated way the internet works.

That’s a factor in the web’s rapid development and increasing usefulness in fields from messaging to finance to home automation. But it’s also what provoked Frances Haugen, a former Facebook employee, to provide documents to the Wall Street Journal and speak at a Senate hearing set for Tuesday. She will ask lawmakers to regulate Facebook in part because the pressures experienced on social networks like Instagram can do great harm to teenage girls. 

Facebook’s downtime raises the question of whether it and other internet giants matter enough to be regulated more like utilities. Just as some banks are considered systemically important, perhaps some of what the likes of Facebook, Alphabet-owned Google (GOOGL.O), and cloud-services behemoths Amazon.com (AMZN.O) and Microsoft (MSFT.O) do has become critical to the functioning of the economy. Meanwhile, lawmakers are also considering whether their activities may be anticompetitive.

For many people, a day or two off Facebook is not a big deal. But a similar breakdown at a huge provider of cloud services could cause widespread trouble, as lesser interruptions have shown before. The internet is a hodge-podge of best efforts, often profit-oriented services. Some of them may now be too crucial to fail.

Follow @richardbeales1 on Twitter


- Facebook and Instagram appeared to be partially reconnected to the global internet on the evening of Oct. 4, nearly six hours into an outage that paralyzed the social media platform. Facebook and its WhatsApp and Instagram apps went dark at around noon Eastern time in the United States.

- The outage was the second blow to the social media giant in as many days after a whistleblower on Oct. 3 accused the company of repeatedly prioritizing profit over clamping down on hate speech and misinformation.

- The whistleblower, former Facebook employee Frances Haugen, will urge the U.S. Congress on Oct. 5 to regulate her erstwhile employer, which she plans to liken to tobacco companies that for decades denied that smoking damaged health, according to prepared testimony seen by Reuters. She will testify at a hearing called “Protecting Kids Online: Testimony from a Facebook Whistleblower.”

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