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Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram deplatform themselves: Services down globally

Did someone at Menlo Park flick the wrong switch?

Updated Facebook and its other social media sites, WhatsApp and Instagram, fell offline today.

The outage started around 1540 UTC for Facebook and Instagram, and shortly after that WhatsApp.


Millions deprived of advertising ... What happened if you visited earlier. Click to enlarge

"We’re aware that some people are having trouble accessing our apps and products. We’re working to get things back to normal as quickly as possible, and we apologize for any inconvenience," Facebook said in an understatement on Twitter – which is seemingly working just fine, though there are complaints from users that they can't get that platform to work either. That might just be from a surge in people turning to Twitter for info on Facebook's empire, or from an ongoing issue with authentication tokens.

Dane Knecht, senior vice president at Cloudflare, tweeted that the outage was attributed to Facebook's BGP (Border Gateway Protocol) routes being withdrawn on the internet. That broke or hampered connectivity to Facebook's DNS servers. As such, we can't even resolve right now, and services can't be used.

You can see Facebook's withdrawal of routes for its DNS servers in the visualization below. Earlier this year, the technology giant spoke of building an automated system for managing its BGP peering configuration. Whether that software was involved or not, it is likely a configuration change somewhere backfired and will take time to recover from.

New York Times reporter Sheera Frenkel said she was "just on phone with someone who works for FB who described employees unable to enter buildings this morning to begin to evaluate the extent of outage because their badges weren’t working to access doors." is reporting falling levels of complaints by users across the US and rest of the world though services remain down at time of going to publication. Meanwhile, WhatsApp rival Signal has boasted about a rise in signups for its encrypted messaging plattform.

This IT breakdown is the cherry on top of a sour cake of a week for Mark Zuckerberg's Facebook. Its share price was down more than 10 per cent today in the wake of leaked documents that show the social media and messaging giant has its own evidence on quite how harmful it can be for its own young users.

On Sunday, in an interview with America's 60 Minutes, the whistleblower behind the leaks revealed herself as Frances Haugen, a data scientist who spent two years at Facebook attempting to quell misinformation. She copied "tens of thousands of pages of Facebook internal research" showing that the site blocks about five per cent of hate speech and less than one per cent of violence and incitement.

Meanwhile, there were complaints in the UK that broadband ISP Virgin Media was suffering connectivity problems.

Finally, T-Mobile US said that though some subscribers are complaining of loss of coverage, the cellular network giant apparently isn't to blame. "We are aware there is a third-party app outage that might be impacting access to those apps, T-Mobile is not currently experiencing any service issues," a spokesperson told The Register.

In other words, if you think you can't connect to the internet, try checking with something other than Facebook or WhatsApp. ®

Updated to add

Sadly, Facebook is gradually returning to normal service after spending about six hours offline. You can find more technical info on what happened right here.

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