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Facebook, Instagram Apps Suffer Hours-Long Worldwide Outages for Some Users

Apps for Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp were down for some users around the world for several hours Wednesday, with unidentified technical problems causing widespread disruptions.

Facebook took to Twitter to update users on the situation. The company acknowledged the problems in a tweet at 1:49 p.m. ET, saying, “We’re aware that some people are currently having trouble accessing the Facebook family of apps. We’re working to resolve the issue as soon as possible.”

Facebook said in a follow-up Twitter post at 3:03 p.m. ET, “We’re focused on working to resolve the issue as soon as possible, but can confirm that the issue is not related to a DDoS attack.” That’s a reference to a distributed denial-of-service brute-force attack, in which networks are overloaded with bogus traffic designed to disrupt service.

Asked for additional info, a Facebook rep in an email sent just before 7 p.m. ET referred to the two tweets and declined further comment. The company is mulling the possibility of issuing refunds to advertisers because of the downtime, Bloomberg reported.

[UPDATE, 3/14, 12:45 p.m. ET: Facebook said it has resolved the issues. See: Facebook Apologizes for Outages, Says It Has Resolved ‘Server Configuration’ Error That Led to Access Problems]

Problems reported by users included the apps’ not loading content or allowing them to share posts, while some said they were unable to log in. Some were shown a message saying Facebook was down for maintenance.

According to website DownDetector.com, user reports of problems accessing Facebook’s apps began to spike around noon ET on Wednesday (March 13) and had not been fully resolved more than four hours later. The issues for Facebook, Instagram and Facebook Messenger appear to be mostly affecting users in the U.S., the U.K. and Brazil, while many WhatsApp error reports have come from Mexico and South America as well as Europe, according to the site.

Outages for large internet platforms like Facebook or YouTube aren’t unusual, but in the past they have typically restored service within an hour or two.

According to performance-monitoring firm Netscout, the issue appeared to be related to an accidental Border Gateway Protocol “routing leak” from a European internet service provider to a major transit ISP; the BGP error then cascaded across other service providers and downstream customers of the transit ISP. (Netscout did not identify the ISPs in question.) However, another monitoring vendor, ThousandEyes — which tracks performance and downtime based on client-side measurement — said it was not seeing any BGP changes affecting connectivity, packet loss or latency for Facebook; ThousandEyes said the problems appeared to be internal to Facebook’s systems rather than a network or internet-delivery issue.

As Facebook’s outages dragged on, Twitter lit up with complaints and comments — and, of course, memes and jokes. “Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp are down. But I hear MySpace is rocking right now,” actor George Takei snarked.

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