Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram did not work for about 7 hours on Monday 4 October. For hours the services were not accessible due to problems concerning, in short, the way in which Facebook makes itself available to other services on the network: it had disappeared from the “digital map” of the Internet, in short.
Collapse of Facebook, the official explanation. The servers protected themselves by thinking of an attack
Go to the deepening
Telegram founder Pavel Durov said that 70 million new users joined his messaging service on the same day. Signal, a messaging application that focuses on privacy, has welcomed “
Millions of new people have joined Signal today and our messaging and calling have been up and running but some people aren't seeing all of their contacts appear on Signal. We're working hard to fix this up.— Signal (@signalapp) October 4, 2021
Other services that allow people to communicate with each other – such as Snapchat and Twitter – have also continued to work and many have taken advantage of them to stay in touch. Most users, on the other hand, are already subscribed to multiple social networks and messaging applications.
Here’s the thing: Facebook’s dominance is often said to undermine competition yet in the moment of necessity, this competition was widely revealed. Showing that perhaps the authorities are focusing on the wrong view of the issue, which is broader.
Twitter, TikTok, YouTube, Snapchat …
According to EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager, Facebook’s technical problems have shown that “we need alternatives and choices in the technology market and we don’t have to rely on just a few big players, no matter who they are“.
The Digital Markets Act (DMA) under development in the European Union intends to achieve the goal of changing the central business model of Big Tech (therefore also Amazon, Apple and Google, for example).
While Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram did not work, users were able to use many other similar platforms: YouTube, LinkedIn, Reddit, TikTok, Twitter, Snapchat, Telegram, WeChat and Signal are the most immediate examples; but there are other less used and valid alternatives.
The impact of the Facebook service failure should not be underestimated: millions of people rely on it to work. Businesses that carry out technical assistance to customers via WhatsApp; content creators who broadcast live on Facebook or who use Instagram Stories to stay in touch with their followers. Even Oculus’s Facebook-based platform didn’t work and so did all the services that require Facebook login.
The impact was large because Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram have a massive and international spread; but it has also shown that, in times of need, the alternatives are many and have made it possible to temporarily circumvent a fault that has been solved in less than 7 hours: a result that is only possible in a sector where competition can flourish. And where, therefore, Facebook is not a monopoly.
“Splitting” Facebook is another matter
The accusations that can be leveled at Facebook are others. The Facebook down, for example, has shown, if anything, how important it is to carefully consider having a single company (Facebook) behind services used by billions of people around the world: a problem with the Facebook network involves them all and just one mistake is enough to leaving millions of people and companies without a fundamental platform for their daily life.
For this reason, the idea of ”breaking up” Big Tech (for example by separating YouTube from Alphabet, Google’s parent company, or Instagram from Facebook) is the basis of many solutions proposed by antitrust authorities around the world, from the European Commission to Federal Trade Commission in the United States, with the aim of avoiding cross-cutting situations such as that of 4 October.
The revelations of former product manager Frances Haugen on how Facebook handles critical issues internally, and who recently testified before the United States Congress, are evidence of how opaque the mechanics of such a large yet so influential corporate conglomerate are. dynamics of modern society, both for minors and adults, for information and culture, for the protection of minorities and for the fight against abuse.
The problems around Facebook are many. Competition is not one of them.