As you’ve probably heard by now, Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp went down on Monday for what is, as of this writing, the company’s longest outage since 2008.
The reason for the blackout is still unknown, but the longer it went on the more folks wondered if the sites were out temporarily… or gone entirely.
As in, permanently deleted.
So, someone deleted large sections of the routing….that doesn’t mean Facebook is just down, from the looks of it….that means Facebook is GONE. pic.twitter.com/OCZWPD2okw
— The Academy (@BenjaminEnfield) October 4, 2021
That fear does not appear to be warranted as FB and IG both seem to be in some stages of repair. But for a while people were really speculating — and not just about permanent damage but about the source of the outage.
The how is a little outside our wheelhouse. We use the internet as much as anyone, but this type of tech knowhow is far beyond us. But let’s assume for a moment it’s possible that either a lone hacker or a team, potentially even Anonymous (who began trending this afternoon), could take down Facebook for several hours.
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Why is this becoming a prevailing theory online? Why assume malice and not simply a glitch in the system? And why them? Why not other social media platforms?
Well, it all comes down to timing.
In case you missed it, FB was dealt a pretty public blow on Sunday when 60 Minutes got an exclusive interview with the Facebook whistleblower. Former employee Frances Haugen put her name behind her accusations for the first time, and what she had to say about the platform was devastating. Essentially, some of our worst fears about Facebook? Someone from the inside just validated them.
The whistleblower began:
“There were conflicts of interest between what was good for the public and what was good for Facebook. And Facebook, over and over again, chose to optimize for its own interests, like making more money.”
This has been felt most prominently in the realm of politics over the past few years (which has of course bled over into healthcare over the past year and a half).
The data scientist pointed to the company knowingly incentivizing politicians to post “angry, hateful, polarizing” content to get more views. Haugen says Facebook’s algorithm is set up to intentionally show people the posts that will get them the angriest because it’s better for engagement, which means more time active on the site, which means more ad revenue:
“Its own research is showing that content that is hateful, that is divisive, that is polarizing, it’s easier to inspire people to anger than it is to other emotions… Facebook has realized that if they change the algorithm to be safer, people will spend less time on the site, they’ll click on less ads, they’ll make less money.”
And the politicians know it and, sadly, have been playing along. According to one internal doc, it was even said this has led them to “more extreme policy positions.” That means Facebook has actually changed public policy. Not to something that’s helpful but to whatever is most anger-inducing. Scary stuff.
Spoiler alert: even knowing this the company chose not to change their algorithm.
This despite the fact political divides have gotten so bad, just last week a poll showed a majority of Trump supporters believed the country should be split in two, and a significant portion of Democrats agreed! We’re talking about the literal end of the USA, and they think it’s a good idea.
Obviously that isn’t Facebook’s only sin in this arena. You can learn more about how they profited directly from Russian political ads meant to inflame, divide, and ultimately get Trump elected HERE.
Oh, and remember that “Civic Integrity” unit Facebook was compelled to create before the election to battle all the misinformation going around before the 2020 election? Well, they trashed that. The 37-year-old, who was hired to work with the company in 2019 in order to work against misinformation, recalled:
“They told us, ‘We’re dissolving Civic Integrity.’ Like, they basically said, ‘Oh good, we made it through the election. There wasn’t riots. We can get rid of Civic Integrity now.’ Fast forward a couple months, we got the insurrection.”
But it isn’t just the US. In one of the leaked docs, FB insiders admit:
“We have evidence from a variety of sources that hate speech, divisive political speech, and misinformation on Facebook and the family of apps are affecting societies around the world.”
Summarizing European political parties’ statements to Facebook from internal documents, Haugen paraphrased:
“You are forcing us to take positions that we don’t like, that we know are bad for society. We know if we don’t take those positions, we won’t win in the marketplace of social media.”
She also insisted things were “substantially worse” at Facebook than other social media companies.
And forget about what Mark Zuckerberg is saying about the company actually fixing things. In all, per her stolen docs, FB’s internal estimates say they’re only catching and taking down about “3-5% of hate” and about “0.6% of V&I [Violence and Incitement]” content.
So why would hackers also take down Instagram? Just because FB owns it? To hurt them?
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Well, they aren’t innocent either. See, it was Haugen who leaked the internal reports we told you about last month that proved Facebook *knows* for a fact IG is incredibly toxic for younger users, increasing depression and suicidal thoughts.
All of this is a huge public scar for the company, and it’s likely to get worse once the whistleblower testifies in front of Congress, which she’s reportedly set to do on Tuesday. You can watch the full interview (below) and read FB’s lengthy written denials HERE:
Is it possible private citizens took matters into their own hands and sought to strike a blow at the company with a major hack? That they heard enough in the damning interview and accompanying document leaks that they felt Facebook needed to be taken down a peg?? (BTW Facebook’s stock did plummet nearly 5% throughout the day.)
We hope to learn the answers soon.
How would YOU feel if Facebook and Instagram were ever deleted from the internet for good??
[Image via CNBC/YouTube/Seb/WENN.]