Facebook’s outage shows how easily society can collapse because of its overreliance on Big Tech platforms
10/07/2021 // Arsenio Toledo // Views

Facebook's recent six-hour-long outage revealed just how dependent significant portions of the world are on social media services controlled by a handful of Big Tech companies – and how easily society could collapse at any moment if parts of the internet were to suddenly go offline.

On Monday, Oct. 4, Facebook and all of its subsidiaries, including its other popular apps like Messenger, Workplace, Instagram and WhatsApp, became unavailable around the world starting 10:40 a.m. CST. Services were not fully restored until around six hours later.

"Our services are now back online and we're actively working to fully return them to regular operations," wrote the company just before 5 p.m. CST on Monday. "We want to make clear at this time we believe the root cause of this outage was a faulty configuration change. We also have no evidence that user data was compromised as a result of this downtime."

"To everyone who was affected by the outages on our platforms today: we're sorry," Facebook has said in another statement. "We know billions of people and businesses around the world depend on our products and services to stay connected. We appreciate your patience as we come back online."

The shutdown locked out all of Facebook's nearly three billion monthly active users, including the approximately two billion active users of the messaging service WhatsApp. (Related: Despite security assurance, Facebook is reading WhatsApp user messages.)

"Not only are Facebook's services and apps down for the public, its internal tools and communications platforms, including Workplace, are out as well," writes New York Times tech reporter Ryan Mac. "No one can do any work. Several people I've talked to said this is the equivalent of a 'snow day' at the company."


It is not uncommon for online services to shut down, not even for Big Tech companies like Facebook. But it is exceptionally rare for these technical issues to last more than a few minutes, let alone several hours.

Overreliance on Facebook a disaster for millions

For huge parts of the world, Facebook and its subsidiaries like Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram are pretty much synonymous with the internet.

More than 3.5 billion people around the world use Facebook and its other social networks and apps. India alone has over 340 million users of WhatsApp and other Facebook apps, compared to around 200 million users from the United States.

For years now, Facebook has been working to expand its access across the developing world by expanding internet access.

What this means is that if millions of people around the world refuse to detach themselves from Big Tech-controlled platforms like Facebook, even temporary outages will have a significant effect.

People trying to message or call their families will not be able to. Businesses, advocacy groups and other organizations using Facebook's messaging services to keep in touch with clients, customers and people in need will also be unable to reach out.

Ruchi Kumar, an Indian journalist heavily involved in the evacuation of Afghan refugees, points out that Afghans in hiding and attempting to leave the country almost exclusively use WhatsApp.

They use WhatsApp not just to connect with friends and family while in hiding, but also to receive news and updates from advocacy organizations working to get them out. "They are already incredibly fatigued and anxious. Losing connection with each other and with trusted allies in the outside world is devastating," says Kumar.

"The question that should be asked increasingly by governments is how they can replicate or maintain communication and major internet systems in case of an outage among major companies that are too big to fail," writes journalist Seth. J. Frantzman for the Jerusalem Post.

Frantzman adds that tech giants like Facebook should be regulated because billions of people around the world rely on online platforms and services controlled by a small number of Big Tech corporations.

"Unregulated and without checks and balances on their operation, Big Tech could be a threat to the West," he writes.

Sources include:





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