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Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp went dark for six hours on Monday

Engineers blamed a configuration error

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Photo (c) mactrunk - Getty Images
If you had trouble getting on Facebook, Instagram, or WhatsApp on Monday, it wasn’t a problem with your router or device. The entire platform suffered a global outage for several hours.

“We’re aware that some people are having trouble accessing our apps and products,” Facebook wrote in a Twitter post. “We’re working to get things back to normal as quickly as possible, and we apologize for any inconvenience.”

That was at midday Eastern Time. It wasn’t until about six hours later that users began to report the sites were accessible once again. Why the platforms went dark wasn’t immediately clear. 

According to the New York Times, Facebook sent a team of engineers to its data center in Santa Clara, Calif., to try a “manual reset” of the company's servers. The Times cited an internal memo for that information. Monday evening, Facebook reported that it had found the cause -- configuration changes on the backbone routers that coordinate network traffic between Facebook data centers caused issues that interrupted communication. 

“This disruption to network traffic had a cascading effect on the way our data centers communicate, bringing our services to a halt,” the company said.

Internal errors

From the start, internet experts correctly suggested that Facebook inadvertently caused that by making changes to its system. Most discounted the possibility of a cyberattack.

“Sincere apologies to everyone impacted by outages of Facebook-powered services right now, CTO Mike Schroepfer tweeted around 3:50 pm Monday. “We are experiencing networking issues and teams are working as fast as possible to debug and restore as fast as possible.”

Technology experts suggested that the outage was caused by changes made to Facebook's Border Gateway Protocol (BGP). The BGP is a means for internet users to get from one place on the internet to another by helping them identify a particular site.

Conspiracy theories were rocketing around the internet in the wake of the system failure since it came a day after the “60 Minutes” interview with a Facebook whistleblower, who leaked documents showing the company was aware of the negative impact its properties were having in society. Frances Haugen, the former Facebook computer engineer who was the source of the leak, is testifying today before a Senate committee about the information she released to the public.

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