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Whistleblower turns the lights off for Facebook

Image designed by Kyle St. John

Just before noon on Monday, Instagram and other companies that fall under Facebook’s subsidiary went dark for over five hours. For billions of people around the world, including yours truly, this emphasized just how addicted we are to these sites.

Facebook is the parent company for WhatsApp, Messenger, Instagram and Oculus. For some people in other parts of the world, it is essentially their only link to the internet. In some instances, it acts similar to Google in that a Facebook profile is the means to log onto sites for other apps and platforms.

In a statement later on Monday evening, Facebook explained that those behind the outage made changes to the infrastructure that facilitates transit between its data centers. When this traffic was interrupted, it brought the entire company’s services to a halt.

Facebook has recently been under fire after whistleblower Frances Haugen, a former Facebook project manager, began sharing her research on the effects of Facebook’s outlets on younger users.

She has shared her cache full of internal research with lawmakers, policy regulators and news outlets showing evidence that Facebook was aware of the harms its services were causing — including the damaging effects of Instagram on the mental health of teenage girls.

The information provided by Haugen has prompted lawmakers to address the concerns of the public. Haugen revealed her identity earlier in the week on “60 Minutes” and is scheduled to testify before Congress about the effects of Facebook on younger users.

Individuals working for Facebook lamented their struggles during the outage because they had no way of getting into the internal system. Facebook uses its own communication platform, Workplace, so it was difficult for the company itself to function and even use digital ID badges during the outage.

Along with the concerns about the effects of Facebook’s social media platforms on the mental health of users, especially young users, this outage showcased just one gap in Facebook’s armor. Facebook’s global security operations center described the outage in a memo as “HIGH risk to the People, MODERATE risk to Assets, and a HIGH risk to the Reputation of Facebook.”
Security concerns should be on the minds of users.

Ultimately, it’s important for all users, but especially frequent users of social media, to be conscious of the information they share and the effects of social media on their mental health. If anything, Haugen’s statements reveal a bitter truth: Social media networks do not care about you, it is up to you as the individual user to protect yourself virtually and mentally.

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