Facebook Did Not Have a Good Week
So what caused the shutdown and why did it last so long? Facebook said it all started because of "configuration changes on the backbone routers that co-ordinate network traffic between our data centers". This is the backbone of Facebook's internal network, connecting all of its facilities around the world.
Facebook has built its own internet, and it needs to talk to the wider internet. And there was a configuration change, and that took it offline. As a result, Facebook vanished from the internet, because it couldn't tell the internet it was there. To make things worse, the engineers could not connect remotely because the internet said there was nothing to connect to and then the added layers of security around the buildings caused further problems.
When people actually showed up at the office in California to physically go and prod the servers, they couldn't get into the building. As the services came back online, the focus switched to Washington and the testimony given to Congress by a former Facebook employee. Frances Haugen, who was the source for a series of Wall Street Journal articles based on internal documents, told lawmakers that the company always put money before the wellbeing of users.
"I saw Facebook repeatedly encounter conflicts between its own profits and our safety. Facebook consistently resolved these conflicts in favor of its own profits," she said.
It was that charge, and the accusation that Facebook is ignoring its own research showing Instagram, which it owns, was affecting the mental health of teenagers, that appears to have finally sparked a response from chief executive Mark Zuckerberg. For weeks the boss of the social media giant has been under pressure to say something, anything, about the tidal wave of criticism engulfing his company. In a lengthy note to staff, he said that the coverage "doesn't reflect the company we know".
He dismissed the idea that Facebook put profits before the wellbeing of its users.
"The argument that we deliberately push content that makes people angry for profit is deeply illogical," Zuckerberg said. "We make money from ads, and advertisers consistently tell us they don't want their ads next to harmful or angry content."
And he asked why, if it was going to ignore its research, would the company have invested so much in it in the first place? The critics were not convinced, pointing out that if Facebook was so confident that its research was robust, then it should have made it public rather than keeping it under wraps.
The cover of last week's Time magazine tells a story about how attitudes to Facebook and its founder have changed over the last decade. It features a somber, pallid Zuckerberg, his face masked by a "delete Facebook?" box.
Politicians, regulators, and many users have fallen out of love with Facebook but with advertisers and investors still onside Zuckerberg could be forgiven for thinking everything is going to continue to be fine.
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