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Facebook begins recovery after major outage took apps offline


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Facebook and its family of apps, including Instagram and WhatsApp, suffered a major outage on Monday. | KELSEY MCCLELLAN / THE NEW YORK TIMES

Facebook Inc. suffered a devastating outage that shut out many of its 2.7 billion global users, idled some of the company’s employees and prompted a public apology from the chief technology officer.

The company’s family of social media apps, including the main social network, photo-sharing app Instagram and messaging service WhatsApp, began to return online for some users about 5:45 p.m. New York time, more than six hours after the incident began. It was one of the longest failures in recent memory. Downdetector, which monitors internet problems, said the Facebook outage was the largest it had seen, with more than 10.6 million reports worldwide.


“To everyone who was affected by the outages on our platforms today: we’re sorry,” Facebook said in a 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.”

Some internal services used by Facebook employees, including the company’s Workplace tool for communicating among teams, also were knocked out for some staff, according to a spokesperson. Some workers even struggled to use Facebook’s badge system at offices, according to a source familiar with the issues.

While it’s not uncommon for Facebook’s apps to have occasional glitches, technical issues that last more than a few minutes are rare.

“*Sincere* apologies to everyone impacted by outages of Facebook powered services right now,” Chief Technology Officer Mike Schroepfer tweeted while the platforms were offline. “We are experiencing networking issues and teams are working as fast as possible to debug and restore as fast as possible.”

The outage was the latest in a series of difficult events for Facebook. A former employee turned whistleblower appeared Sunday on the CBS program “60 Minutes” to accuse the company of prioritizing profits over user safety. The former employee, Frances Haugen, also handed over thousands of damning documents to U.S. lawmakers and The Wall Street Journal, which wrote a series of articles last month on Facebook’s struggles with content moderation and Instagram’s negative psychological impact on teenagers. The whistleblower is also set to testify before a Senate subcommittee on Tuesday.

Facebook shares dropped 4.9% to $326.23 at the close in New York. They had declined before the outage was reported, hurt by the whistleblower’s “60 Minutes” appearance.

The outage Monday appeared to be related to Facebook’s DNS (domain name system) records. Put simply, DNS converts domain names like facebook.com to the actual internet protocol addresses of the corresponding website. An error in DNS records can make it impossible to connect to a website. Facebook has had to physically reset some of the company’s servers in an effort to fix the problem.

The cause of the issue is “probably a bad configuration or code push to the network management system,” said Alex Stamos, former chief security officer at Facebook who is now director of Stanford University’s Internet Observatory. “This isn’t supposed to happen.”

While the scale of the outage was unusual, Facebook’s internal apps stopped working for a time in 2019 following a dispute with Apple Inc., which halted some of the apps’ functionality on the iPhone maker’s platform.

After a user on Twitter suggested that Instagram should “stay offline forever,” Instagram boss Adam Mosseri jokingly replied, “Them fighting words … but it does feel like a snow day.”


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