Facebook, along with Instagram and its messaging apps WhatsApp and Messenger, suffered widespread outages Monday, 4 October, around 9 pm for Indian users and at 11:40 am in the United States (US), bringing the entire network to a halt. The platforms remained down for over six hours, making the outage the longest since March 2019, when the services were inaccessible for about 24 hours across multiple platforms.
Around 5 billion users depend on Facebook and its apps. The company's dominance in the social network sphere is evident. These outages that are becoming increasingly uncommon disrupt the flow of the Internet. In the wake of accusations made by a whistle-blower that Facebook prioritised profits over safety and clamping down misinformation, it is crucial that we examine the colossal control the tech giant has with its share in social networking platforms.
With the acquisition of Instagram in 2012 and WhatsApp in 2014, Facebook boasts of the largest social media presence and control in the world. One company owning four of the most popular social networking and messaging apps is nothing but a data monopoly.
Through what is the largest web of social networking platforms flow a significant volume and variety of personal data. The combined data from multiple platforms is an easy aid to precisely model our traits and behaviours. Their access is a compromise on user privacy. This kind of power, and the subsequent wealth, must be regulated. Even with the free services, a data monopoly like Facebook can extract significant wealth that it otherwise couldn’t in a competitive market.
According to a Bloomberg report, Zuckerberg's personal wealth fell by more than $6 billion in the hours the three social media platforms were down. It also saw him moving down on the list of the world's richest people. Get the scale?
Moreover, the dependence of internet users on a single media company cannot work well, and outages are the best examples of it. The dropping down of one company then causes a virtual social media blackout. With a majority of businesses, news publications, and entertainment channels relying on its chain of social networks, the inaccessibility of these services is harmful – socially and financially. I need not spell out the implications of a break in communication during times of emergency and calamity.
The perils of a single tech giant owning majority of social media apps are many. However, during these outages, the internet finds its way to humour itself through the lines of communication that are available. Here’s what the netizens had to say about the global outage.
The New York Times' Ryan Mac reported that Facebook's internal tools and communications platforms were also down.
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