Massive Outage Dents Facebook Shares, Revenue

Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp went dark in what website monitoring group Downdetector said was the largest such failure it had ever seen.
Matthew HellerOctober 5, 2021

Facebook took a hit to its share price and advertising revenue on Monday as a massive outage shut down the social media platform for about six hours.

The Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp apps went dark around noon Eastern Daylight Time, in what website monitoring group Downdetector said was the largest such failure it had ever seen, with 10.6 million problem reports globally.

“I would look at this like a social media natural disaster,” Elizabeth Gore, co-founder and president of Hello Alice, a company that helps diverse small-business owners, told The Wall Street Journal.

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By the time normal service resumed around 5:45 pm, Facebook stock had fallen 4.9% to $326.23, its worst daily loss since November 2020.

Configuration changes to its routers disrupted network traffic and the disruption “had a cascading effect on the way our data centers communicate, bringing our services to a halt,” Facebook said in a blog post.

As The New York Times reports, ‘Technology outages are not uncommon, but to have so many apps go dark from the world’s largest social media company at the same time was highly unusual. Facebook’s last significant outage was in 2019, when a technical error affected its sites for 24 hours, in a reminder that a snafu can cripple even the most powerful internet companies.”

“The abruptness of today’s outage highlights the staggering level of precarity that structures our increasingly digitally mediated work economy,” said Brooke Erin Duffy, a professor of communications at Cornell University.

More than 3.5 billion people worldwide use Facebook and its sister apps to communicate with friends and family, distribute political messaging, and expand their businesses through advertising and outreach.

Fact-checking website Snopes estimated that the outage cost Facebook $79 million in ad revenue, based on the $28.6 billion in revenue it collected in the second quarter. “To the huge community of people and businesses around the world who depend on us: we’re sorry,” the company said.

The shutdown also added to Facebook’s difficulties ahead of whistleblower Frances Haugen’s testimony before Congress on Tuesday. In an appearance on “60 Minutes” on Sunday, she accused Facebook of “prioritizing [its] own profits over public safety.”