Skip to main content
A scary good deal on trusted journalism
Get full digital access to globeandmail.com
$0.99
per week for 24 weeks SAVE OVER $140
OFFER ENDS OCTOBER 31
A scary good deal on trusted journalism
$0.99
per week
for 24 weeks
SAVE OVER $140
OFFER ENDS OCTOBER 31
// //

The global outage that knocked Facebook and its other platforms offline for hours was caused by an error during routine maintenance, the company said.

Santosh Janardhan, Facebook’s vice president of infrastructure, said in a blog post that Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp going dark was “caused not by malicious activity, but an error of our own making.”

The problem occurred as engineers were carrying out day to day work on Facebook’s global backbone network; the computers, routers and software in its data centers around the world along with the fiber-optic cables connecting them.

Story continues below advertisement

“During one of these routine maintenance jobs, a command was issued with the intention to assess the availability of global backbone capacity, which unintentionally took down all the connections in our backbone network, effectively disconnecting Facebook data centers globally,” Janardhan said Tuesday.

Facebook’s systems are designed to catch such mistakes but in this case a bug in the audit tool prevented it from properly stopping the command, Janardhan said.

That change also triggered a second problem that made things worse by making it impossible to reach Facebook’s servers even though they were operational.

Engineers scrambled to fix the problem on site, but this took time because of the extra layers of security, Janardhan said. The data centers are “hard to get into, and once you’re inside, the hardware and routers are designed to be difficult to modify even when you have physical access to them.”

Once connectivity was restored, services were brought back gradually to avoid traffic surges that could cause more crashes.

It was an “unforeseen anomaly” for a faulty maintenance update to take down Facebook’s backbone network, but the company probably could have avoided a scenario in which its servers were completely taken offline, making it impossible to access the tools needed to fix it, said Angelique Medina, of Cisco Systems’ ThousandEyes, a firm that monitors internet outages.

“The big question is why so many internal tools and systems could have a single source of failure,” Medina said. “Facebook would still have been down because of the network outage, but they could have resolved the outage sooner if they had internal access.”

Story continues below advertisement

Testifying before Congress, a former Facebook data scientist accused the company of being aware of apparent harm to some teens from Instagram and being dishonest in its public fight against hate and misinformation. The Associated Press

Be smart with your money. Get the latest investing insights delivered right to your inbox three times a week, with the Globe Investor newsletter. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error
Tickers mentioned in this story
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies