Have you ever had the feeling of losing a part of your daily routine for just one day, and there was nothing you could do about it?
That was the feeling that billions of Facebook and Instagram users felt for about six hours starting around 11:40 a.m. Oct. 4, 2021, when both social media platforms shut down. Along with Facebook and Instagram, other related platforms such as WhatsApp and Messenger also experienced the shutdown.
The shutdown had many people theorizing that it was somehow related to the 60 Minutes interview with former Facebook employee and whistleblower, Frances Haugen, that had aired the previous day.
In the interview, Haugen alleged that Facebook, through its algorithms and profit-seeking methods, was prioritizing hate and misinformation over honesty and integrity. Facebook of having a conflict of conflicts of interest between what was good for the public and what was good for Facebook, and Facebook repeatedly chose to optimize for its own interests.
Many people are overlooking an important detail: The courage and bravery that Haugen needed to expose Facebook. The risks of whistleblowing can be devastating.
In a New York Times article John Tye, the founder of Whistleblower Aid, a legal nonprofit that represents people seeking to expose potential lawbreaking said regarding Haugen, “She is a very courageous person and is taking a personal risk to hold a trillion-dollar company accountable.”
The New York Times article also stated that Haugen filed a complaint with the Securities and Exchange Commission, accusing Facebook of misleading investors with public statements that did not match its internal actions.
It was later reported that the shutdown was caused by configurations in Facebook’s main network. According to Facebook Engineering, “configuration changes on the backbone routers that coordinate network traffic between our data centers.” This error blocked their ability to communicate which set off an outpour of network failures which eventually lead to Facebook and Instagram getting shut down.
The shutdown led a lot of Facebook and Instagram users to head to different social media platforms such as Twitter. A lot of Twitter accounts welcomed all these new users. Twitter’s official account tweeted: “hello literally everyone” which sparked many companies to reply saying all sorts of things related to Facebook being shut down.
“Initially I thought my phone was broken because I couldn’t open Facebook or Instagram,” John Mager, senior history major, said recalling the day the shutdown happened. “But when I learned that everyone else was also experiencing the same issue, I started to think that maybe the shutdown was related to the whistleblower story that had aired the day before.”
“The shutdown didn’t really affect my daily routine, but that day I was feeling a little under the weather and I just wanted to spend the day relaxing on Instagram but because of the shutdown, I couldn’t,” Mager said.
Mager said that the whistleblower story changed his view of Facebook.
“Before the whistleblower story I was already a little skeptical of Facebook and their doings, but after watching some of the 60 Minutes interviews, I was even more skeptical of Facebook.”