What’s going on with Facebook?

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On Monday morning, billions of people around the world woke up to the unthinkable: Facebook.com was gone. It wasn’t something that could be fixed by refreshing a page or resetting a router. The reason Facebook, along with Instagram and WhatsApp, was inaccessible was that for six hours, those domains simply didn’t exist. In the fallout, Facebook continues to face an antitrust lawsuit by the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Facebook has been a staple in the daily lives of millions of people since its launch in 2006. Initially marketed as a way to connect with friends and family, it now performs several functions, including as a marketplace and information platform. . Its popularity is evident from the number of visits the site receives each month. In June 2021, Facebook registered 20 billion visits, making it the third most popular website in the world, according to Statistia.com. Written, 20,000,000,000 has ten zeros, which is almost three times the current population of Earth of 7,753,000,000 people. Considering Facebook claims an active user count of around 2,890,000,000, that would mean the average user visited the website at least seven times per month.

When a website this size goes missing without a trace, it’s no wonder many people panicked when it went down. So what was the cause? It was not a terrorist attack, nor the result of disappearance or physical damage. Instead, the problem arose during a routine update when Facebook deleted itself from the internet’s metaphorical GPS.

Every existing website is hosted on an actual physical computer somewhere in the world. For a website the size of Facebook, it is hosted on a large network of server computers, literally separated by certain countries. However, they all share one thing: their home address. To access a website, your computer, tablet or smartphone must first send a locate request. This request is sent to something called Border Gateway Protocol (BGP), which routes your computer to the correct destination. Think of it as an old-fashioned switchboard or a library index reference sheet.

At one point, a message was sent to BGP which essentially told them that the domains of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp were no longer available. In the future, every time someone tried to access one of these websites, BGP didn’t know where to send them. For all intents and purposes, Facebook has ceased to exist, although the physical servers are unscathed and functioning perfectly fine.

The solution to the problem was just as simple: sending another message to let BGP know that Facebook was back where it was, however, sending that message turned out to be very difficult. At Facebook’s head office, the software that runs the website also manages the company’s internal messaging system, as well as the digital locks for most doors. The lockdown was so overwhelming that it took several hours before someone capable of solving the problem managed to get inside the building.

“Not only are Facebook’s services and applications inaccessible to the public, but its internal tools and communication platforms, including Workplace, are also available. No one can do any work. Several people I spoke to told me that it was the equivalent of a “snow day” at the company. New York Times tech reporter Ryan Mac tweeted on closing day.

The shutdown occurred almost immediately after a CBS ’60 Minute’ interview aired with company whistleblower Frances Haugen who leaked hundreds of internal documents, detailing Facebook’s alleged negligence in dealing with groups. violent haters on their platform. According to Haugen, Facebook was aware of several potentially violent hate groups that were using their websites to spread rhetoric and network with other like-minded groups. In addition, he also had the presumed ability to suppress these groups, but instead, according to the whistleblower, the groups were allowed to stay because they generated a lot of interactions, whether in agreement or in opposition.

Additionally, in December 2020, the FTC filed a lawsuit against Facebook, claiming it was acting in a monopolistic manner. The complaint alleges that “Facebook has embarked on a systematic strategy – including its acquisition in 2012 of promising competitor Instagram, its 2014 acquisition of the WhatsApp mobile messaging app and the imposition of anti-competitive terms on software developers – to eliminate threats to its monopoly. This course of action harms competition, leaves consumers little choice for personal social media, and denies advertisers the benefits of competition, ”according to the FTC website.

After Monday’s shutdown, Facebook filed a second dismissal request, saying in court documents that the FTC had failed to find a “” plausible factual basis on which to label Facebook an illegal monopolist. “

“The fictitious FTC market ignores competitive reality: Facebook competes vigorously with TikTok, iMessage, Twitter, Snapchat, LinkedIn, YouTube and countless others to help people share, connect, communicate or just be entertained,” he said. a Facebook spokesperson said in an interview. with Reuters reporter David Shepardson, “The FTC cannot credibly claim that Facebook has monopoly power because there is no such power.”


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Shanta Harris

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