Facebook, Instagram & WhatsApp Down: Thousands Report Errors

Getty Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp users are reporting issues.

Thousands of users are reporting that Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp have all crashed. People are sharing that they’ve encountered errors, including a “something went wrong” message, when they try to access the platforms. A 5xx error message appears on Instagram’s website, which points to a server issue. The issue appears to be widespread, as people are reporting problems around the world. Both Facebook and Instagram have said they are working on the problem. However, it’s possible it could take some time to fix the issues if servers are involved. The good news is that there may be some positive signals of a fix beginning to come in. As of early Monday evening, some people were beginning to see the social media platforms back online. They’ll likely operate slowly for some time before the platforms are stable again, experts warned.

Here’s what you need to know.

People Began Reporting Issues with All Three Platforms at the Same Time

DownDetector reported a spike in issues for all three platforms just before 12 p.m. Eastern on Monday, October 4.

You can see exactly when the spike happened on Instagram in the chart below, DownDetector reported. Users reported 44% of the issues with the app, 29% on the website, and 27% with a server connection issue.

Down Detector

You can see also when the spike happened on WhatsApp in the chart below, DownDetector reported. Users reported the same issues with this platform, including issues with the app, server connection, and issues sending messages.

Down Detector

You can see that the spike of issues happened at the same time on Facebook in the chart below, DownDetector reported.

Down Detector

The issues were mostly with the website on Facebook, according to users, but some also reported issues with the app and the server connection.

People Reported Server Errors & “Something Went Wrong’ Messages

Heavy observed an error message that read: “Sorry, something went wrong. We’re working on it and we’ll get it fixed as soon as we can.”

Instagram’s website is also completely down, including its Help page, where people often go when encountering errors. Instagram’s Help page simply reads “5xx Server Error” as of 12:05 p.m. Eastern.

ATT explained that a 5xx code means the issue is with the server. The website noted: “These [5xx] errors are caused by the server being unable to fulfill an apparently valid request from a visitor. Often, you will need the help of a server administrator to investigate them. It is also important to consider that quite often, a chain of servers is handling an HTTP request, so that it may not be your server that is returning the error.”

You can learn more about what the 5xx error means in Heavy’s story here

Facebook’s Developers Platform Status can sometimes help point to the source of issues with Facebook and Instagram. However, that page simply reads the same “Something went wrong” error also.

On Reddit, users reported testing the social media platforms with different ISPs and still encountering the same issue.

Just before 12:30 p.m. Eastern, more than half an hour after the platform crashed, Instagram’s official Twitter account finally posted about the issue.

The Twitter account wrote: “Instagram and friends are having a little bit of a hard time right now, and you may be having issues using them. Bear with us, we’re on it!”

Facebook also acknowledged the issue in a tweet.

Facebook tweeted: “We’re aware that some people are having trouble accessing our apps and products. We’re working to get things back to normal as quickly as possible, and we apologize for any inconvenience.”

Neither tweet addressed what was causing the issue or gave a timetable for when to expect the platforms to be up and running again.

Meanwhile, Twitter shared its own tweet about the outage and WhatsApp responded.

The Platforms Are Beginning to Show Positive Signs of Movement in the Right Direction, with Some People Able to Access Them Again

This wasn’t a quick fix for the social media platforms, people warned on Reddit’s sysadmin subreddit hours before the platforms began to come back online. One person in the subreddit suggested that because staffing in data centers is lower right now due to the pandemic, it might take longer to fix the problem. Whether or not this is the case, an issue this widespread that involves servers could likely take longer to resolve than most Facebook users are used to.

On Reddit, one user who later deleted their account posited: “DNS for FB services has been affected and this is likely a symptom of the actual issue, and that’s that BGP peering with Facebook peering routers has gone down, very likely due to a configuration change that went into effect shortly before the outages happened (started roughly 1540 UTC).”

Facebook and Instagram have not officially shared the cause of the outage, so it’s not known if the hypothesis above will end up being accurate or not. You can see the DNS issues yourself by checking DNS Checker here.

Another person on Reddit shared that it’s not a good idea to host your platform’s status page on your own server, in case your server goes down.

Facebook has had to turn to Twitter to share status updates since the status page is only delivering error messages.

The CTO of Cloudflare tweeted about the outage, writing: “About five minutes before Facebook’s DNS stopped working we saw a large number of BGP changes (mostly route withdrawals) for Facebook’s ASN.”

He tweeted: “Between 15:50 UTC and 15:52 UTC Facebook and related properties disappeared from the Internet in a flurry of BGP updates. This is what it looked like to @Cloudflare.” 

When someone asked how it could happen, he pointed to a Reddit thread that Heavy also reported on, where someone claiming to be associated with Facebook had shared details. While their account hasn’t been confirmed as legitimate, it has since been deleted.

That person had also written on Reddit, before deleting their account: “There are people now trying to gain access to the peering routers to implement fixes, but the people with physical access is separate from the people with knowledge of how to actually authenticate to the systems and people who know what to actually do, so there is now a logistical challenge with getting all that knowledge unified… Part of this is also due to lower staffing in data centers due to pandemic measures… No discussion that I’m aware of yet that is considering a threat/attack vector… I believe the original change was ‘automatic’ (as in configuration done via a web interface). However, now that connection to the outside world is down, remote access to those tools don’t exist anymore, so the emergency procedure is to gain physical access to the peering routers and do all the configuration locally…”

As the outage extended past three hours, Twitter also began experiencing issues.

Dane Knecht of Cloudflare noted on Twitter that even once Facebook and Instagram are back up, there will likely be a period of instability for quite some time.

Facebook Addresses Are Beginning to Resolve Through DNS & the Site Is Starting to Come Back Online

John Graham-Cumming, Cloudflare CTO, shared around 5:15 p.m. Eastern that there were some positive signs that might be signaling that Facebook is getting closer to coming back online.

Addresses are beginning to resolve through DNS as of 5:20 p.m. Eastern, so the platform is slowly making its way to coming back online.

Heavy observed the website for Facebook working again around 5:55 p.m. Eastern, although it’s running very slowly.

Cloudflare is warning that users should expect a long period of instability on the platforms even after they’re back online, shared Dane Knecht of Cloudflare.

No, Facebook’s Domain Isn’t for Sale

A false rumor is spreading claiming that the Facebook domain is for sale, but this is only because of an ad not associated with Facebook. You can learn more in Heavy’s story here.

The Outage Was So Bad That Some Facebook Employees’ Badges Stopped Working

On Twitter, New York Times reporter Sheera Frenkel tweeted that some Facebook employees couldn’t even enter their building this morning because the outage was so bad that their badges stopped working.

Frenkel wrote: “Was just on phone with someone who works for FB who described employees unable to enter buildings this morning to begin to evaluate extent of outage because their badges weren’t working to access doors.”

Facebook’s Shares Were Down This Morning After a ’60 Minutes’ Whistleblower Report

Facebook was already in the news before the outage. Its shares were down after a “60 Minutes” episode the night before on Sunday, October 3. In the episode, a whistleblower said there were conflicts of interest “between what was good for the public and what was good for Facebook,” Yahoo reported this morning. Shares were down by 4.5% on Monday — their lowest since June 21. The whistleblower, Frances Haugen, is appearing before a Senate subcommittee on Tuesday, October 5. You can learn more about Haugen in Heavy’s story here.

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