Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp are experiencing a widespread outage, with the social networks and instant messaging platform all offline for users in multiple locations. The outage comes amid renewed criticism of Facebook, after a whistleblower came forward with the company’s own internal research that suggests it could have a negative impact on users.
The outage began earlier this morning, US eastern time. Attempts to load Facebook in the browser result in a DNS error, while the Instagram feed cannot be refreshed. WhatsApp users are unable to access conversations.
Errors like this aren’t entirely unusual, but it’s rare for them to be so widespread. Facebook’s own service status page is also down, meaning businesses reliant on the social network are also unable to check how long it might be before the site returns.
DNS outages can be a big problem, and even the largest of tech companies can have the rug pulled out from under them. An outage earlier this year saw Steam, PlayStation, Disney, GoDaddy, Amazon, UPS, LastPass, and many others go offline, along with streaming providers like HBO Max and even airline booking sites. That was blamed on Akamai Edge DNS, with the company citing a partial outage for the glitch.
For Facebook, though, the downtime comes as the site faces strong pushback for just how healthy it is for many of its users. Whistleblower Frances Haugen – who previously worked as a product manager on the civic misinformation team at Facebook – appeared on “60 Minutes” this weekend to discuss why she downloaded a huge cache of internal research and distributed it to law enforcement agencies in the US.
Among the data are internal studies carried out by Facebook’s own researchers, which – Haugen and others say – point to an awareness at the company that many people are negatively impacted by their time on the site, and apps like Instagram. Younger users like teenage girls faced exacerbated body image issues, it’s suggested, while Facebook’s role in exaggerating the vaccine divide has also been highlighted. Haugen also suggested that Facebook had lied to the public about just how much it was doing to prevent fake news and hate speech.
Facebook, meanwhile, argued that the allegations were unfounded, and countered that interpretation of the studies. “We continue to make significant improvements to tackle the spread of misinformation and harmful content,” spokesperson Lena Pietsch said. Right now, meanwhile, that spread has been brought to an abrupt halt with this unexpected downtime.