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Facebook claims 'faulty configuration change' caused hours-long outage

Users reported experiencing issues with the social media company's services before noon Monday.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Facebook and Instagram were back online Monday evening following an outage that kept the social media platforms inaccessible for six hours. 

Users began reporting issues with Facebook services Monday morning, according to Downdetector. In addition to Facebook and Instagram, Whatsapp suffered an outage, as well.

Not all the services were functioning at full capacity – some users reported issues with posting content onto Instagram.

Facebook said the root cause of the outage was a "faulty configuration change." The company added that no user data was compromised while services were offline.

"Our engineering teams have learned that configuration changes on the backbone routers that coordinate network traffic between our data centers caused issues that interrupted this communication," Facebook said. "This disruption to network traffic had a cascading effect on the way our data centers communicate, bringing our services to a halt."

A security awareness advocate with KnowBe4, Erich Kron, estimated that the outage impacted millions of people. "Essentially what happened here is, the internet’s GPS if you will, that tells things where to go to find the servers went away for Facebook. There’s a couple different places that comes into play. Essentially, now we just can’t find where they are on the internet and that’s what’s happened," Erich Kron explained.

Kron added, it's unusual to see an outage like this last as long as it has. "It’s very unusual this happens in organizations like this and that it stays down this long."

CNBC reports that Monday's outage is the worst the company had faced since 2008, back when only 80 million users were kept offline. Today, Facebook hosts more than 3 billion users. 

Downdetector, which tracks submitted problem reports for websites, apps and social media, noted that issues started to spike dramatically after about 9 a.m. Eastern. Eighty percent of issues noted were with the websites themselves, while 9 percent were with apps and 11 percent were tied to server connection issues, according to the website.

Doug Madory, director of internet analysis for Kentik Inc., told The Associated Press that the routes Facebook advertises online that tell the internet how to reach its services weren't available.

Credit: Facebook

NetBlocks, an internet watchdog organization, noted that the issues with services spanned multiple countries, and included reported problems with Facebook Messenger, as well. The organization, which monitors connectivity in countries across the globe, said that the issues didn't appear to be related to "country-level internet disruptions or filtering."

The technical issues come just a day after a bombshell report was aired by CBS' "60 Minutes" where whistleblower and former Facebook product manager, Frances Haugen, claims that the company prematurely turned off safeguards designed to thwart misinformation and rabble-rousing at one point. 

There's no known tie between that and Monday's outages.

Kron did add, it's odd timing for this to happen. "The timing is interesting. It’s suspect given the whistleblower interview that just happened last night," Kron stated.

Social media competitor Twitter poked fun at Facebook's outage: 

"It’s a pretty bad day for Facebook," Kron said. 

Kron explained a lot of people rely on Facebook for their businesses.

"Companies that rely on Facebook for their marketing. People are running stores on Facebook. This is much more cataphoric," Kron explained.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

TEGNA's Douglas Jones contributed to this report.