What's Going On?

Fact Check: Is Facebook Down Because 1.5 Billion Users’ Data Was Stolen?

Here's what happens to misinformation when the single largest source of misinformation goes down.

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Unless you’ve been using the internet under a rock, you’ve probably noticed that Facebook, along with several of its other services, is down.

Like, really down.

Ironically, despite one of the largest sources of misinformation disappearing, people immediately flocked to alternative platforms like Twitter to find out the reason why the biggest social media platform in the world went AWOL — and ended up sharing plenty of misinformation there as well.

On Twitter, for instance, many dubious accounts started claiming that the “data of over 1.5 billion Facebook users” was “being sold on a popular hacking-related forum,” citing a writeup by a website called Privacy Affairs, a Romania-based cybersecurity research firm.

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“This constitutes the biggest and most significant Facebook data dump to date,” Privacy Affairs claimed in its piece, referring to a user of a “known hacker forum” posting an announcement about the big hack.

The timing of the tweet couldn’t have hit harder, given the massive outage — despite the fact that the forum posts date back to September 22.

Tweets echoing the claim picked up tens of thousands of likes and shares, including by several other verified Twitter accounts with significant followings.

But whether the purported hack — and its authenticity — has anything to do with Facebook’s massive outage seemingly flabbergastingly unlikely. The consensus among cybersecurity experts is that it’s far more likely that the downtime is related to human error rather than hacking.

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Several Facebook security team members also told The New York Times that it was unlikely a cyberattack caused the issues.

“It could well have been the result of an internal, system-wide change or update that went awry,” journalist Brian Krebs wrote in a tweet. ” It’s all speculation at this point why. Facebook alone is in control over its DNS records.”

There have been several instances in the last couple of years that support that theory.

The massive outage also came the day after Frances Haugen, a former Facebook employee and whistleblower behind the leak of a gigantic cache of documents dubbed “The Facebook Files,” came forward with a high-profile interview with CBS.

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The documents leak appears to be unrelated to the purported hack of Facebook user data.

We still don’t know what exactly caused Facebook and many of its services to disappear, and it’s not exactly surprising that rumors are absolutely swirling right now.

The Facebook outage certainly leaves a massive hole in internet traffic across much of the Western world. And the same goes for misinformation. Perhaps this what a world without Facebook looks like?

READ MORE: Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp hit by global outage [Reuters]

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More on the outage: Something Very Strange Is Going on at Facebook


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