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The planet survived six hours without Facebook. Let’s make it longer next time – The Register

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Opinion At the time of writing, it has been exactly 100 hours since Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp crept back out of the void onto the internet*. They’d been gone for six hours – or seven billion dollars, if you measure out your life by Zuck’s net worth, which we don’t recommend.

The time for hot takes has passed. We are now in the brief window for sober analysis before everyone forgets it ever happened. Next Thursday, by current standards.

There are three angles that matter. One is the pure technical side – how a giant corporation, built out of the most resilient networking technologies ever created, just vanished. One is what it teaches us about Facebook’s importance to our daily lives. The last is what it tells us about Facebook itself, where it goes next, and whether its strip-mining of societal values for profit will continue.

The technical side is simply put. Someone, most likely a hapless sysadmin, tried to check backbone availability, but a malformed command shut down access to the company’s DNS servers instead.

It did this by cancelling the routes into Facebook that the internet knew about. The safety checks to stop that happening were broken, there was no Plan B and, as a bonus, most if not all of Facebook’s internal tools, comms, virtual and physical access systems shut down too. Hilarity ensued.

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Did it matter?

Yes and no. There are lots and lots of small businesses that rely on Facebook pages to talk to their customers. They had six hours of uncertainty.

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WhatsApp has been widely adopted as a team channel by all sorts of people who had to wait to plot, plan or parcel out work.

Families dealing with sickness or crises remotely suffered.

You don’t turn a multibillion-user service off without pain, and most of that was felt by people with the least heard of voices. But think what would happen if Google, Microsoft or Amazon had a total service outage like that. Even the partial ones we’ve seen have created universal concern that was absent here.

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Instead of concern, there was a sigh of relief all around, and a surge of schadenfreude among that hapless admin’s peers. That’s unusual and noteworthy.

Most sysadmins and other ops types have huge sympathy when an internal fumble by one of the clan causes public conniptions. There but for the grace of God is the rule – and the #HugOps tag is deployed in fraternal and sororal support. This time, not so much. Normally, everyone in the business recognises that work is work, but the social network seems like social death for network admins.

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This failure of respect amplifies the technical aspects of the outage. The raw components from which Facebook is built, the technologies and the people in the engine room, can do much better when allowed. You can build secure backdoors that bypass your main networks. You can build watchdogs that fall back to a known safe state when things stop happening.

You can’t foresee everything, but you can assume systemic failures whatever the cause. Yet a single point of failure took everything down. Efficiency had won over redundancy. The worst case that never happens, happened. Too much security is never enough – until it’s just too much.

And these are managerial decisions.

When we look at how Facebook’s business model is constructed, we see the same thinking. Concerns of malfeasance from the outside world must be locked out, no matter how badly the internal systems are behaving. Maximal efficiency, a single-minded approach to gathering data and selling it – allegedly without nuance or safeguard – is the one true way.

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Whistleblowers are the enemy. The media is to be ignored, rebuffed or treated like idiots, and what the hell do regulators or governments know anyway? Best practice is what Facebook says it is, not what everyone else decides.

This is hubris, characteristic of a company that is too powerful to care. State telcos had it. IBM in the 1960s had it and Microsoft in the 1990s – neither are by any means cured. And Apple, Google, Amazon all have it too.

But where Facebook is uniquely vulnerable is that if it goes away, it doesn’t much matter, even in the medium term. It is a social network, and nothing but, and users can rebuild that social interaction on a different platform in weeks. Others stand ready to take the advertising and analytics spend.

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Unlike Microsoft, Amazon and Google, unlike the telcos and IBM, Facebook provides no essential services to business or state. Quite the opposite – it threatens, and it has money, but it has no leverage. A loss of confidence at the top, or a sufficiently puissant legal or regulatory challenge, and it could vanish as quickly as its BGP routes, an irrelevant Yahoo! for the 2020s.

Facebook embodies the single point of failure. It has no friends it cannot buy, just enemies it cannot pay off. Six hours on a Facebook-free planet felt like six thousand hours too few, and now we know it. Does Facebook? ®

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Down and out in Menlo Park…

*The firm later gave some Facebook and Instagram users another little breather on Friday from around noon Pacific Time (19:00 UTC) to around 13:00 PT (20:00 UTC).

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Facebook Messenger Is Launching a Split Payments Feature for Users to Quickly Share Expenses

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Facebook Messenger Is Launching a Split Payments Feature for Users to Quickly Share Expenses

Meta has announced the arrival of a new Split Payments feature in Facebook Messenger. This feature, as the name suggests, will let you calculate and split expenses with others right from Facebook Messenger. This feature essentially looks to bring an easier method to share the cost of bills and expenses — for example, splitting a dinner bill with friends. Using this new Split Payment feature, Facebook Messenger users will be able to split bills evenly or modify the contribution for each individual, including their own.

The company took to its blog post to announce the new Split Payment feature in Facebook Messenger. 9to5Mac reports that this new bill splitting feature is still in beta and will be exclusive to US users at first. The rollout will begin early next week. As mentioned, it will help users share the cost of bills, expenses, and payments. This feature is especially useful for those who share an apartment and need to split the monthly rent and other expenses with their mates. It could also come handy at a group dinner with many people.

With Split Payments, users can add the number of people the expense needs to be divided with and, by default, the amount entered will be divided in equal parts. A user can also modify each person’s contribution including their own. To use Split Payments, click the Get Started button in a group chat or the Payments Hub in Messenger. Users can modify the contribution in the Split Payments option and send a notification to all the users who need to make payments. After entering a personalised message and confirming your Facebook Pay details, the request will be sent and viewable in the group chat thread.

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Once someone has made the payment, you can mark their transaction as ‘completed’. The Split Payment feature will automatically take into account your share as well and calculate the amount owed accordingly.


For the latest tech news and reviews, follow Gadgets 360 on Twitter, Facebook, and Google News. For the latest videos on gadgets and tech, subscribe to our YouTube channel.

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Tasneem Akolawala is a Senior Reporter for Gadgets 360. Her reporting expertise encompasses smartphones, wearables, apps, social media, and the overall tech industry. She reports out of Mumbai, and also writes about the ups and downs in the Indian telecom sector. Tasneem can be reached on Twitter at @MuteRiot, and leads, tips, and releases can be sent to tasneema@ndtv.com.

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Facebook Owner Meta Launches New Platform, Safety Hub to Protect Women in India

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Meta (formerly Facebook) on Thursday announced a slew of steps to protect woman users on its platform, including the launch of StopNCII.org in India that aims to combat the spread of non-consensual intimate images (NCII).

Meta has also launched the Women’s Safety Hub, which will be available in Hindi and 11 other Indian languages, that will enable more women users in India to access information about tools and resources that can help them make the most of their social media experience, while staying safe online.

This initiative by Meta will ensure women do not face a language barrier in accessing information Karuna Nain, director (global safety policy) at Meta Platforms, told reporters here.

“Safety is an integral part of Meta’s commitment to building and offering a safe online experience across the platforms and over the years the company has introduced several industry leading initiatives to protect users online.

“Furthering our effort to bolster the safety of users, we are bringing in a number of initiatives to ensure online safety of women on our platforms,” she added.

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StopNCII.org is a platform that aims to combat the spread of non-consensual intimate images (NCII).

“It gives victims control. People can come to this platform proactively, hash their intimate videos and images, share their hashes back with the platform and participating companies,” Nain said.

She explained that the platform doesn’t receive any photos and videos, and instead what they get is the hash or unique digital fingerprint/unique identifier that tells the company that this is a known piece of content that is violating. “We can proactively keep a lookout for that content on our platforms and once it”s uploaded, our review team check what”s really going on and take appropriate action if it violates our policies,” she added.

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In partnership with UK Revenge Porn Helpline, StopNCII.org builds on Meta’s NCII Pilot, an emergency programme that allows potential victims to proactively hash their intimate images so they can”t be proliferated on its platforms.

The first-of-its-kind platform, has partnered with global organisations to support the victims of NCII. In India, the platform has partnered with organisations such as Social Media Matters, Centre for Social Research, and Red Dot Foundation.

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Nain added that the company is hopeful that this becomes an industrywide initiative, so that victims can just come to this one central place to get help and support and not have to go to each and every tech platform, one by one to get help and support.

Also, Bishakha Datta (executive editor of Point of View) and Jyoti Vadehra from Centre for Social Research are the first Indian members in Meta”s Global Women”s Safety Expert Advisors. The group comprises 12 other non-profit leaders, activists, and academic experts from different parts of the world and consults Meta in the development of new policies, products and programmes to better support women on its apps.

“We are confident that with our ever-growing safety measures, women will be able to enjoy a social experience which will enable them to learn, engage and grow without any challenges.

“India is an important market for us and bringing Bishakha and Jyoti onboard to our Women”s Safety Expert Advisory Group will go a long way in further enhancing our efforts to make our platforms safer for women in India,” Nain said.

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Facebook Adds New Trend Insights in Creator Studio, Which Could Help Shape Your Posting Strategy

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Facebook’s looking to provide more content insight within Creator Studio with the rollout of a new ‘Inspiration Hub’ element, which highlights trending content and hashtags within categories related to your business Page.

Facebook Inspiration Hub

As you can see in these screenshots, posted by social media expert Matt Navarra, when it becomes available to you, you’ll be able to access the new Inspiration Hub from the Home tab in Creator Studio.

At the right side of the screen, you can see the first of the new insights, with trending hashtags and videos from the last 24 hours, posted by Pages similar to yours, displayed above a ‘See more’ prompt.

When you tap through to the new hub, you’ll have a range of additional filters to check out trending content from across Facebook, including Page category, content type, region, and more.

Facebook Inspiration Hub

That could be hugely valuable in learning what Facebook users are responding to, and what people within your target market are engaging with in the app.

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The Hub also includes insights into trending hashtags, within your chosen timeframe, which may further assist in tapping into trending discussions.

Facebook Inspiration Hub

How valuable hashtags are on Facebook is still up for debate, but you’ll also note that you can filter the displayed results by platform, so you can additionally display Instagram hashtag trends as well, which could be very valuable in maximizing your reach.

Much of this type of info has been available within CrowdTangle, Facebook’s analytics platform for journalists, for some time, but not everyone can access CrowdTangle data, which could make this an even more valuable proposition for many marketers.

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Of course, overall performance really relates to your own creative, and thinking through the action that you want your audience to take when reading your posts. But in terms of detecting new content trends, including hashtag usage, caption length, videos versus image posts, and more, there’s a lot that could be gleaned from these tools and filters.

It’s a significant analytics addition – we’ve asked Facebook for more info on the rollout of the new option, and whether it’s already beyond test mode, etc. We’ll update this post if/when we hear back.

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