The Facebook outage, combined with the appearance of a whistleblower, seems like the perfect storm for the tech giant.
Many people use Facebook to access the internet, and they couldn’t, which was a serious problem.
The Facebook outage also proved how addictive the platform(s) have become. People were getting extremely stressed not being able to keep their fingers on the pulse.
The outage was bad enough but coming at the same time that Frances Haugen was preparing to make some pretty serious accusations against the company. The last few days have proved to be a fantastic excuse for anyone with a grudge against Facebook to take a swing.
And they did.
Russia immediately said that the Facebook outage proved beyond doubt that it “answers the question of whether we need our social networks and internet platforms”. Russia has been trying to rid itself of Facebook for some years now. Telegram claimed to have picked up 70 million new users since the beginning of the outage.
Meanwhile, the outage triggered a response from Brussels, prompting Margrethe Vestager to tweet that “We need alternatives and choices in the tech market, and must not rely on a few big players, whoever they are, that’s the aim of (the) DMA.”
The accusations from Frances Haugen are heated. “I’m here today because I believe Facebook’s products harm children, stoke division and weaken our democracy,” she said before Congress. And “there is no one currently holding Mark (Zuckerberg, the Facebook chief executive) to account. The buck stops with Mark.”
“The company’s leadership knows how to make Facebook and Instagram safer, but won’t make the necessary changes because they put their astronomical profits before people.”
These are some serious allegations, and if any or all of them are proven, then the charges against Facebook and possibly Mark Zuckerberg himself (who has long said he is doing everything he can) will quite likely be the company’s downfall. If someone can prove that someone died because Facebook did not pay due care and attention, that is possibly manslaughter. Many, anyway, will launch a class action suit, accusing the company of doing nothing to prevent unheard of mental health problems and suicides.
It is, too, curious that the Facebook outage was blamed on ‘faulty configuration changes.’ You can hear the laughter of anyone involved in IT for a big company. It just does not compute.
The rumours are already multiplying, of course. Conspiracy theories will follow.
The biggest rumour is that it was an inside job. It could be.
One thing that does seem too much of a coincidence is the timing of the ‘confession’ of Frances Haugen and a major, very major, outage.
It is almost as if it was coordinated, showing that Facebook is vulnerable and then taking the shot.
Whatever the truth, this will be the most extreme challenge ever faced by a company already under pressure for being too powerful and arrogant.
This is even possible the tipping point for big tech and is the beginning of the end of their time in the sun.
As Senator Dan Sullivan said, “I think we’re going to look back 20 years from now and all of us are going to be like ‘what the hell were we thinking’ when we recognize the damage that it (social media) has done to a generation.”
He might be right.