People rely on social media for many things. Most use these platforms to stay connected with friends and family. Meanwhile, others, such as influencers, use them for business. Social media gave them this superpower, which wasn't available before. And people have gotten used to having this superpower.
That is why people get frustrated when they cannot access their accounts. Imagine their exasperation during the October 4th outage that happened on Facebook. The social media giant and its subsidiaries – Messenger, Instagram, WhatsApp, Oculus, and Workplace – went down for 6 hours. People cannot send and receive messages or refresh their feeds.
When launching Instagram, users are met with a “5xx server error.” This message meant that the problem was in Facebook's servers. Later on, it was revealed that there was an issue with the DNS. Facebook also said that configuration changes to the routers in Facebook's data centers caused the problem.
“Our services are now back online, and we're actively working to return them to regular operations fully,” Facebook wrote afterward. The company also said that it has evidence that no user data was compromised during the outage.
But it was not the only time an outage happened that week. On Friday, October 8, there was a 30-minute outage. Instagram and Facebook turned to Twitter to announce that they are aware of the problem and are working to fix the issue.
Of course, before the announcements, people were confused. Some thought the case was unique to them, fearing they did something wrong that led to them getting suspended from the platform. Others thought the technical problem was on their end.
To prevent inducing feelings like that, Instagram is now testing a new in-app feature. It will notify users of outages.
Through an October 11 official post, Instagram announced two new features coming to the platform. It opened by saying how it is committed to making people informed about how Instagram works. The platform mentioned two of its blogs – one talking about its algorithms and how the Search function finds results.
Now, Instagram is looking to give people information about the outages and technical issues it is experiencing. When there's an issue, and after it is resolved, Instagram will notify users in their Activity Feed. The post contained a screenshot displaying what the notification would look like. It is displayed at the top of the Activity Feed and says, “There's currently an issue affecting stories.” When the issue is resolved, it will say, “We recently fixed an issue affecting stories.”
Instagram says conversations with its community and extensive research made it realize how confusing it is to people when Instagram experiences issues. Moreover, the confusion is amplified when the problem affects engagement and distribution. Instagram hopes to bring clarity through this feature.
That statement hints at the controversies about the platform “shadowbanning” accounts, which it tries to fight. That is the exact reason why Instagram posted the two blogs mentioned above.
Instagram says that it would not send notifications every time there is an outage, though. It will only do so if it sees that people are confused and looking for answers. It did not expand on why it chose to do that.
The testing will run in the US and will last for a few months. But, it plans to roll out more widely and expand to more people.
The flaw of this feature is obvious. Instagram will still rely on other social media networks when the whole platform is down. In an event similar to what happened on October 4, this feature is practically useless.
During the outage, some people thought they were kicked out of Instagram. It revealed that people are wary of their account status. They think about how much of what they do is against the Community Guidelines. Unfortunately, there's no easy way to know it. Some were afraid they got caught paying for Instagram followers!
If they want to get that information, they could reread the Community Guidelines. And then, they have to review their activity on the platform.
Instagram hopes to make the journey more accessible by introducing the Account Status feature. With this tool, users can quickly know if their account is at risk of being disabled.
Instagram also admits that its technology is not perfect, and it can sometimes remove posts by mistake. But users will now be able to appeal by simply tapping the “Request a Review” button on the Account Status.
That's all there is to the feature for now. But Instagram envisions it as a “one-stop-shop to see what's happening with a user's account and content distribution.”
In the future, Account Status will give people a better sense of how their content is being distributed and recommended across Instagram. That, again, is meant to combat rumors about shadowbanning.
Regardless of Instagram's intent for creating this tool, it is a welcome one. On top of the Support Requests the social media platform introduced last year, Account Status will undoubtedly be handy. It will be an essential tool for users as it will help them keep their accounts.
Again, these features are still in the testing phase. Their fates aren't yet set in stone. Depending on what the platform will see in the experiments, there may be lots of changes implemented. The tools may not end up as how they are initially described. Worse, they may even be scrapped before they are officially released. Thankfully, that seems not likely to happen. No one is complaining about these new features. People want to have them.
Instagram promises to share more info about these features over time. If you are interested in them and want to see how they are developing, make sure to look for updates.
It is great to see that platforms like Instagram continuously exert efforts to give users better experiences. It shows that they care and they are not all about the profits. Hopefully, we'll see more features like these on other platforms.
In September, Facebook achieved its all-time high stock closing price. Sadly, things have been going downhill for the company since then.
First, there are the two instances of outages that happened on October 4 and 8. The first one lasted for 6 hours, one of the most protracted outages in the company's history. Thankfully the other one did not last long. Facebook resolved it 30 minutes after it announced the outage in a tweet.
During the outages, all of Facebook's properties and services were unusable. That includes 1Messenger, WhatsApp, Oculus, and Workplace. Of course, people who use these for important matters such as business were exasperated.
But that is not Facebook's only problem. There's also “The Facebook Files,” published by The Wall Street Journal. It is filled with leaked internal documents that show that the company prioritized profits over public safety.
The leaker, Frances Haugen, later revealed herself on the TV news program 60 Minutes. She was a product manager at Facebook, and she worked for the company for two years. Haugen says that Facebook is conflicted between what is suitable for the company and what is good for its users. Sadly, Haugen says Facebook always chose to optimize for its interests. She cannot stomach the company's lack of openness to admit its flaws anymore. That is why she did this. Haugen says she did it to help the company and not harm it.
One of Haugen's whistleblowing results is the rising concern about the harmful impact Facebook and Instagram can have on children and teenagers.
These concerns are exacerbated with the news that Instagram Kids is in the works. This caught the attention of health experts and lawyers alike. They all agree that it is a bad idea.
Instagram is a photo-sharing platform focused on appearance and lifestyle. As a result, cyberbullying and unfavorable social comparisons are commonplace on the forum. Both of these are detrimental to the mental health of users.
Now, teens and kids are still figuring out their sense of self. If they were exposed to these negative things, it would not be suitable for their personal growth.
The thing is. Facebook is aware of these. The leaked internal research revealed the company knows teens blame Instagram for rising rates of depression and anxiety. It also exposed the company for knowing that Instagram made body issues worse for one in three teenage girls. Despite these findings, Instagram saw it would be nice to make an Instagram alternative for kids.
Facebook VP for global affairs and communications says that the company is taking new measures to push teenagers away from harmful content.
One of the things Facebook and Instagram will do is show less political content on people's feeds. It will amp up the appearance rates of content from users' friends on the service instead. The social media giant hopes it can nudge teenagers away from content that may not be conducive to their well-being through this. Additionally, the social media giant aims to help further the adults of teenagers supervise their children's browsing experience and give them a platform as friendly as it is accessible.
The social media giant resorted to this measure after their 2018 test phase saw positive responses after overhauling the news feed to show more posts from friends and family than companies and publishers.
Whistleblowers Frances Haugen will test against Facebook in the UK Parliament on October 25 due to her claims against the social media giant.
Haugen claims that Facebook's “moral bankruptcy” should be stopped. Haugen has appeared in front of US Senators beforehand. However, she was slammed by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg himself as he claimed that Haugen's testimony presented a “false picture” of the platform.
Haugen claims that “Congress can change the rules that Facebook plays by and stop the many harms that it is causing.” This claim – among many – is part of Haugen's string of efforts to bring down the “moral bankruptcy” that the social media giant has caused among the millions of its users. Haugen, who once worked on the platform's election interference and intelligence issues, claims that Facebook, and subsequently its other platforms such as the photo-sharing website Instagram, is deeply underinvested when it comes to the field of combating misinformation and harassment, which remains to be an issue by the time of writing.
However, Haugen's outing in the United Kingdom isn't the first time the Facebook Whistleblower has leaked sensitive information against the social media giant. Before Haugen left Facebook, the former Facebook Product Manager has copied internal documents that have been used by other platforms like the Wall Street Journal and CBS to create and expose Facebook.
Though Facebook has since then denied the allegations made by Haugen on both occasions and has attempted to cover up the claims made by Haugen, Haugen's expose on Facebook and its lackluster steps towards cybersecurity. Content moderation is nothing to sneeze at. It's so prominent, in fact, that several US Senators compared Haugen's allegations to the cover-up of large tobacco companies about the dangerous health effects of tobacco. Though it might be relatively minor, there will be changes made within the platform. As for what – only time can tell as we move forward.
What does all of these mean for Facebook?
What started as a feature turned out to be much more harmful than anyone imagined – and what began as a minor function change turned out to be a multimillion-dollar lawsuit that involved one of the most influential websites in the world. Haugen's leaked information has stated several self-serving initiatives from the social media giant, which reflect poorly upon their millions of users worldwide. The announcement brought upon by Haugen should suffice for now – and only time can tell as to what will happen as Facebook and Haugen set out to have another hearing this coming October 25.
Date: October 30, 2021 / Categories: Interesting, / Author: Joy P
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