Facebook Loses Face

Facebook is offline. And when I noticed this, my first impulse was to post to Facebook about it. Hmm. I understand this is a global problem — although I can’t tell from news stories whether it’s offline for all users or some users — and it also affects other Facebook apps like WhatsApp and Instagram. The DNS management system Cloudflare says that FB’s Facebook’s border gateway protocol routes have been “withdrawn from the Internet,” whatever that means.

It possibly wasn’t a hack.

Two Facebook security team members, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly, said it was unlikely that a cyberattack caused the issues. That’s because the technology behind the apps was still different enough that one hack was not likely to affect all of them at once.

This happened the day after FB was featured on 60 Minutes in an interview with a former employee who left with boxes of documents she has shared with the Securities and Exchange Commission and which were leaked to a lot of news outlets. The former employee claims the platform’s ranking algorithm amplifies “angry” content, contrary to what FB claims to be doing with its content. She also said Facebook turned off safeguards designed to tamp down misinformation and inflammatory speech after Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump in last year’s US elections, and that this was done purely to ramp up traffic and make more money.

See also Kevin Roose, Facebook Is Weaker Than We Knew, at The New York Times.

Facebook is in trouble.

Not financial trouble, or legal trouble, or even senators-yelling-at-Mark-Zuckerberg trouble. What I’m talking about is a kind of slow, steady decline that anyone who has ever seen a dying company up close can recognize. It’s a cloud of existential dread that hangs over an organization whose best days are behind it, influencing every managerial priority and product decision and leading to increasingly desperate attempts to find a way out. This kind of decline is not necessarily visible from the outside, but insiders see a hundred small, disquieting signs of it every day — user-hostile growth hacks, frenetic pivots, executive paranoia, the gradual attrition of talented colleagues.  …

… The documents, shared with The [Wall Street] Journal by Frances Haugen, a former Facebook product manager, reveal a company worried that it is losing power and influence, not gaining it, with its own research showing that many of its products aren’t thriving organically. Instead, it is going to increasingly extreme lengths to improve its toxic image, and to stop users from abandoning its apps in favor of more compelling alternatives.

Mark Zuckerberg might want to consider cashing out now, while the cashing out is good, rather than wait until the company’s value begins to deflate.

This whole thing with algorithms needs more examination, although not by me, as I am not a technogeeky sort of person. During my time writing for About dot com I learned how much Google algorithms can make or break web traffic and commerce, and Google is perpetually tweaking its algorithms to benefit itself at the expense of others. Maybe some kind of regulation is in order, although possibly by some independent commission and not the government itself.

4 thoughts on “Facebook Loses Face

  1. The DNS management system Cloudflare says that FB’s Facebook’s border gateway protocol routes have been “withdrawn from the Internet,” whatever that means.


    There are protocols for saying "I can find X address on the internet" between switches (usually work within one network – but not always, now), and routers (generally, "routing" between multiple networks). For local networks, a popular one is Open Shortest Path First, which maps out the network by asking other network devices "what addresses can you find, and how 'long' (in milliseconds, "hops" between networks, or some other metric) is the path to that network from you?", and soon, everyone knows how to find every network device and every network address that can be reached.

    Border Gateway Protocol is a backbone protocol – it's like "if you want to reach any server, at any site, that's part of Facebook, I'm the one telling 'The Internet' how to get stuff to a local network that can find that server, on that site."

    The statement above says, essentially, "we have no idea how to find anything Facebook, because the information that tells us how to figure out where to start sending anything to Facebook is gone." – the routes (to whatever you want in Facebook) are withdrawn.

      • Well, network routes can be marked dead if the stuff on the internet backbone keeps getting errors returned – it's possible that Facebook's advertising of routes got messed up, and their routes are no longer trusted due to a high error count.

        Full disclosure: I don't know if BGP drops routes due to errors – I just know some networking protocols do.

        It's also possible that Facebook took down all their backbone routers (or told them to stop advertising routes) while they're trying to isolate the issue. I think this is the most likely scenario.

        I don't want to say it's *impossible* a bad actor could have done something to cause this, but the backbone is designed to recognize and route around problems, and while I don't know what kind of security measures are in place, I do have a sense of the scale of security measures you'd need, which means people who make a lot more money than me have designed those security measures.

        So sight unseen, I'd assume it was Facebook pulling the routes, or, Facebook having run into such a networking mess that BGP is rejecting their routes, until things are repaired.

  2. So Ted Cruz was on CNBC this morning railing as he tends to do.  He focused on the damage Facebook has (by it's own data as reported) on young girls related to body image.  He ducked questions on the data showing algorithms fostering hate and extremism.  Not a shock. These are his stock in trade.  

    So Facebook  know it was causing social harm across the world yet made business decisions in favor of profit as reported by the whistleblower.  This should be no shock either.  Yet somehow the myth of capitalism,  that capitalism has some hidden power to do the right thing is never  challenged.  Watch today as the hearings progress.  The Republicans will attempt to take a moral high road, but avoid the fact that Facebook is a capitalist company that has a serious anti-social effect on this country and the rest of the world and needs social control.  Yes the social control that a sold out Congress is failing to provide because it ascribes mythical powers to unbridled capitalism.  It is tough  to govern correctly when  you do not understand capitalism and can't separate myth from reality. Cruz has that  problem in spades here, as does the Republican party in general.  

    The quote from Krugman is so spot on about  so many issues.  Here again is another example of how the right's positions are hypocritical, sold out, anti-social and in many cases just ugly and wrong. 

    If elite opinion cares so much about the future, why isn’t there any comparable consensus now about the need for climate action and spending on children? 

    The Republicans are losing it because of their uncritical belief in their own propaganda.  It is flaw that President Kennedy was well aware could cobble the Dems in his day.  So far the GOP shows no sign they recognize they even have this problem.  But is that not the problem historically of elites with too much power?  


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