Gmail, Facebook and Instagram outage: What's wrong with the internet?

Don Rowe for The Spinoff

The shit hit the fan about 2.30 yesterday afternoon.

"Can anyone send an attachment?"

Gmail was down.

I woke up this morning bleary after an enthusiastic evening at Four Tet. My sinuses tasted like Heineken and plastic cup. I grabbed my phone, which was still playing a 10-hour rain soundtrack from last night. I opened Facebook.

Facebook was down.

Why is Facebook down? Who knows! Facebook said on Twitter (lol) they're aware of the problem, and are "working to resolve the issue as soon as possible." I bet they are. Is this eco-terrorism for the digital age? Some real, 'burn down a credit company', Fight Club shit? A state actor flexing its cyber muscle?

I opened Instagram. Same shit.

Whatsapp? Notsapp. I can't even talk to my friends about how I can't talk to my friends because they're all owned by the same bloody company.

I don't text, and I don't even remember how to piss around on the internet anymore. With one tech f**k-up, the entirety of my communications and most of my entertainment were gone. At first I was mostly just pissed. But on further thought, I'm freaked out.

This is a huge deal for the empire of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp. At the time of writing the outage is reaching into its fifth hour, and it's been three and a half since Facebook deigned to tell its literal two billion-plus users what is going on. There are 90 million business pages on Facebook, and more than six million paying advertisers. Mark Zuckerberg himself will presumably be overalled-up, sweating under the hood.

Big Data has been in the news a lot lately, and absolutely not for good reason. Google breaches name suppression, Facebook facilitates genocides, hate crimes, anti-vaxxers and f**king Trump, and both of them are selling your very thoughts to the highest bidder. You've probably read about it – or not, considering the platforms censor dissent. 

We're all heavily addicted to shitty products controlled by alien sociopaths, and none of it even gets you high – it scientifically just makes you feel shit. Even the New Zealand government uses Facebook to livestream events central to our democracy, which is apparently on hold:

This week, on the 30th anniversary of the world-wide-web, literal father of the internet Tim Berners-Lee criticised the "perverse incentives" that motivate tech companies to treat us like cattle.

"Companies must do more to ensure their pursuit of short-term profit is not at the expense of human rights, democracy, scientific fact or public safety. Platforms and products must be designed with privacy, diversity and security in mind," he said.

With all due respect, Sir Tim, bro, you're dreaming.

Yesterday The Spinoff published Danyl Mclauchlan's review of The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, Shoshana Zuboff's horrific chronicling of just how Zuck and co monetised their platforms. Danyl writes that Zuboff sees big tech as Lovecraftian horrors, bent on perverse whoring of our collective metadata.

"Google and Facebook can't just be bad actors doing bad things," he paraphrases. "They're erasing our humanity and destroying the possibility of the future."

Gmail, Facebook and Instagram outage: What's wrong with the internet?
Photo credit: Lindsay Lohan / Twitter

In the United States, presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren came out in favour of regulating the tech giants, going as far as to say she'd break up companies like Facebook, in doing so forming an unlikely alliance with Rupert Murdoch.

"We have these giant tech companies that think they rule the Earth," Warren said in a series of ads – which Facebook deleted. "We all use them. But in their rise to power, they've bulldozed competition, used our private information for profit, and tilted the playing field in their favour."

So what happened? Hackers? Regulations? Big tech flexing its muscle like a mean pimp? No idea, and even less idea about what we're supposed to do now. Download Snapchat? Go outside? Ha! 

There are a few lines in the first verse of Tom Scott's song F(r)iends that come to mind:

Old boy sittin' in the dark with a lightbulb, and a lighter in his hand like a pyro, just can't put the thing down like an iPhone.

Heard you gonna quit like that? Try kick that shit it'll kick right back.

The Spinoff

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