Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg has apologised for the “disruption” caused after its social media services went down for almost six hours – impacting more than 3.5bn users worldwide.
The billionaire said sorry after an internal technical issue took Facebook, Messenger, Whatsapp and Instagram offline at about 16:00 GMT on Monday.
The scramble to bring it back online eventually succeeded at around 22:00.
But it is likely to increase scrutiny of the social media giant’s reach.
For hours, potentially billions of people were unable to use the social media tools they relied on to communicate with friends and family. Others were reportedly unable to access services that required a Facebook login.
Meanwhile, small businesses around the world that use social media to connect with customers faced an unexpected financial hit.
According to the tracking software of the business website Fortune, Mr Zuckerberg himself was thought to have lost an estimated $6 billion (£4.4 billion) from his personal fortune at one point as Facebook shares plummeted.
Downdetector, which tracks outages, reported 10.6 million problems around the world, the most it had ever recorded.
Facebook later said it had been brought offline by a faulty configuration change which not only impacted the websites and apps, but also affected the company’s internal tools.
Among these tools were Facebook’s internal email and employee work passes.
According to some reports, Facebook’s headquarters were in “meltdown.” Even “people trying to figure out what the problem was” couldn’t get into the building, according to New York Times technology reporter Sheera Frenkel.
The New York Times reports that the problem was eventually resolved after a group managed to get into a California data centre and reset the servers. The company has not confirmed this.
Facebook has stated that it is investigating what occurred in order to “make our infrastructure more resilient.” According to tech experts, the problem is akin to the social media giant disappearing from the internet’s map, making it impossible to find.
According to the company, there is “no evidence that user data was compromised.”
The outage comes at a particularly difficult time for the company, which is under increasing scrutiny for its scope and impact on society.
On Sunday, former Facebook employee Frances Haugen told CBS news the company had prioritised “growth over safety”.
On Tuesday she will testify before a Senate subcommittee in a hearing titled “Protecting Kids Online”, about the company’s research into Instagram’s effect on the mental health of young users.