Facebook Inc.’s global crash exposed the risks of relying on its social networking products, reinforcing the willingness of European regulators to limit its reach, just as the testimony of a US whistleblower threatens to attract a more undesirable examination at home.
As Europe woke up to regain Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger services, the scale of Monday’s outage quickly drew criticism. European Union antitrust chief and digital czar Margrethe Vestager said Facebook’s failure would draw attention to the company’s dominance.
“It’s always important that people have alternatives and choices. That’s why we strive to keep digital markets fair and contestable, ”Vestager said. “A breakdown as we have seen shows that it is never good to rely on only a few big players, whoever they are.
The network problem that brought down the services used by more than 2.75 billion people could not have come at a worse time. After a television interview in the United States on Sunday, whistleblower Frances Haugen will appear before a Senate subcommittee on Tuesday and tell lawmakers what she calls the “scary truth” on Facebook. Haugen’s accusations that the company prioritizes profit over user safety continued to grab headlines as Facebook services went down.
The revelations prompted US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to highlight the risks faced by countries that depend on services for communication.
Facebook climbed 1.3% to $ 330.33 in New York City, crushing a 4.9% collapse on Monday.
Facebook already faces numerous antitrust and privacy investigations across Europe, as well as scrutiny even of small deals, such as its proposed takeover of a customer service software provider. The company was fined 225 million euros ($ 261 million) last month for WhatsApp data failures and is the subject of separate antitrust investigations by the European Commission and the German competition watchdog, the Bundeskartellamt.
EU lawmakers will vote in the coming months on new laws that would limit the ability of powerful internet platforms like Facebook to expand into new services. The disruption of services has shown the “serious consequences” of reliance on a business for major communication channels, and that Facebook should never have been allowed to buy Instagram and WhatsApp, said Rasmus Andresen, a German Green Member of the European Parliament.
“Everyone in the European Union as well as in the United States must realize at the latest now that we need strict regulations against quasi-monopolies,” Andresen said in a statement. “We need close transatlantic cooperation.
The event sparked calls for a new digital “order” from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a man with little tolerance for political criticism on social media. The hour-long shutdown showed how “fragile” social networks are, said Fahrettin Altun, its presidential communications director, calling for a rapid development of “domestic and national” alternatives. “The problem we saw showed us how much our data is at risk, how quickly and easily our social freedoms can be curtailed,” Altun said in a series of Twitter posts.
The nationalist Alternative for Germany party has welcomed the disruption, with lawmaker Beatrix von Storch saying she hopes competitors will benefit.
In Nigeria, the blackout silenced President Muhammadu Buhari’s communications team, government officials and 36 state governors for six hours. The government has increasingly relied on Facebook to educate the public after Twitter services were blocked in Africa’s most populous country on June 5. A spokesperson for the president’s office declined to comment.
Hungarian opposition politicians who use Facebook products to bypass public media have lamented the company cannot be relied upon as they campaign against Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
Facebook is “for us opposition politicians one of the last media where we can talk to you and which is not totally dominated by” Fidesz, Orban’s political party, said Budapest mayor Gergely Karacsony in a video posted Tuesday. Problems with the platform threaten the ability to disseminate information, he said.
The outage forced some phone companies to take action. The Polish Play unit of Parisian telecommunications company Iliad SA increased the number of calls to its customer service by eight-fold between 6.30 p.m. and 7.30 p.m. local time, she said in a blog post on its website. He had to reconfigure his network to avoid overloading.
“This outage shows the over-reliance we have on a single company, and the need for diversity and greater competition,” said Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group in London, in an interview. “Their reliance on data-driven, attention-enhancing products is dangerous and needs to be challenged through interventions that allow for greater competition. “