Facebook and its WhatsApp and Instagram apps went extinct early around 5:30 a.m. (New Zealand time) in what website watchdog group Downdetector said was the biggest such failure it had ever seen. There have been 10.6 million reports of problems worldwide.
At around 11:30 a.m. (New Zealand time), some Facebook users began to regain partial access to the social media app. WhatsApp continued to have connection issues for at least some people.
The blackout was the second blow to the social media giant in as many days after a whistleblower on Sunday accused the company of repeatedly prioritizing profit over cracking down on hate speech and disinformation. The complaint led two members of the European Parliament to request an investigation into the allegations.
Security experts said the disruption could be the result of an internal error, although sabotage by an insider is theoretically possible.
“Facebook practically locked its keys in his car,” tweeted Jonathan Zittrain, director of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard.
Reuters could not immediately confirm the problem affecting the services, but the error message on the Facebook Inc webpage suggested a problem with the domain name system (DNS).
DNS allows web addresses to take users to their destinations. A similar outage at cloud company Akamai Technologies Inc shut down several websites in July.
Security experts who monitored the situation said the outage could have been triggered by a configuration error, which could be the result of an internal error, although sabotage by an insider is theoretically possible.
Outside hacking was considered less likely. In contrast, a massive denial of service attack that could overwhelm one of the world’s most popular sites would require either coordination between powerful criminal groups or a very innovative technique.
Facebook acknowledged that users were having difficulty accessing its apps, but did not provide any details on the nature of the problem or how many people were affected by the outage.
“We are working to get things back to normal as quickly as possible, and we apologize for any inconvenience,” Facebook said.
Facebook experienced similar widespread outages with its suite of apps this year in March and July.
Several users using their Facebook credentials to log into third-party apps like Pokemon Go and Match Masters were also facing issues.
“If your game is not working as usual, please note that there has been a problem with the Facebook login servers and as soon as this is fixed everything will be back to normal,” said the game application from puzzle Match Masters on his Twitter account.