Global blackout: can we do without the Facebook ogre?

the essential The giant blackout that affected Facebook, its services and its subsidiaries (Instagram, WhatsApp) on Monday questions the weight taken by Mark Zuckerberg’s firm in our personal and professional lives and raises a question: can we do without Facebook?

It is perhaps the most important failure in the history of Facebook, the one that could also have the most consequences for the social network founded by Mark Zuckerberg in 2004. On Monday, Facebook, but also its subsidiaries WhatsApp and Instagram and their services, indeed experienced a technical failure of more than six hours, between 13 and 22 hours in France.

Domino effect after a modification on servers

The 3, 48 billion members of the ecosystem, thus have could not log into their Facebook profile, use messenger messaging, send messages on WhatsApp or post photos on Instagram. At the origin of this failure, a modification on computer servers, according to Facebook vice president in charge of infrastructure, Santosh Janard.

L'empire Facebook
THE’ Facebook empire Statista

“Configuration changes on the backbone routers that coordinate network traffic between our data centers have caused issues that have interrupted this communication.” In addition to the services used by the general public – part of which has shifted towards competing services which have experienced a peak in attendance and registration (Twitter, Telegram, Signal, etc.) – Facebook’s very infrastructures have been affected, preventing for example employees using their badge to enter the premises of Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park in the United States.

The malfunction on computer servers – which is not believed to be due to a cyber attack – has affected the entire Facebook ecosystem by domino effect and sometimes severely impacted economic activity in certain countries. In India for example, WhatsApp replaces SMS, in many countries Facebook is used by SMEs for e-commerce, etc.

A loss of $ 6 billion in a few hours for Zuckerberg

“To the huge community of people and businesses around the world who depend on us: we’re sorry. We are working hard to give you back access to our apps and services and are happy to tell you that they are coming back online at this time, ”Facebook tweeted Monday at 16 h 22 GMT. “Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger are back online,” said Mark Zuckerberg himself yesterday, who personally experienced the outage. Facebook’s stock market fell 4, 56% Monday night on Wall Street , causing the CEO to lose more than 6 billion dollars in a few hours, whose fortune then fell 100 , 6 billion, according to a Bloomberg count.

But more than these financial losses, it is the very image of Facebook that emerges once again damaged

Le groupe de défense Avaaz installeune armée de 100 profils de Zuckerberg grandeur nature sur la pelouse du Capitole.
The Avaaz Defense Group installs an army of 100 life-size Zuckerberg profiles on the lawn from the Capitol. AFP – SAUL LOEB

For several years, Facebook has been accumulating criticism: the Cambridge Analytica scandal, named after the company which improperly used the personal data of thousands of members to influence their voting intentions in several countries; recurring personal data leaks; the repeated polemics on the deficient moderation of hateful, sexist or conspiratorial content; algorithms that enclose members in filter bubbles; the role of Facebook in Brexit or of WhastApp in the election of Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil; without forgetting the formidable tax optimization to which the company engages – like other giants of the Net.

Since September, the Wall Street Journal has been churning out Facebook Files, revelations on the functioning of the social network. Thus an internal investigation shows that Facebook was aware that its Instagram application worsens the mental health problems of young people but took no action. And in an interview broadcast by CBS on Sunday, a former whistleblower engineer Frances Haugen accused the group of choosing “profit over safety” from its users …

The idea of ​​dismantling is gaining ground in the United States

Monday’s blackout is therefore at its worst and gives arguments to all those who want Facebook to be dismantled. The idea, initially carried by the American left and the Democratic senator Elizabeth Warren, made its way according to the hearings of Facebook before the Congress. Like Rockefeller’s Standard Oil in 1914, like Telecom giant AT&T in 1984, some dream of seeing Facebook dismantled in the name of the anti-trust law. There remains a serious obstacle: such a dismantling could give way to Chinese digital giants – such as Tencent and its WeChat application – recently taken over by Xi Jinping.

The United States will therefore think twice about it, especially since the services offered by Facebook, despite all the criticisms, are often essential and almost come under the public service … Difficult to escape the Facebook ogre, even s ‘there are a few free alternatives. In the absence of dismantling, we are probably moving towards a stricter framework, European-style regulation.

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