How the Facebook shutdown induced a global existential crisis


The world's most used social media platforms shut down for several hours on Wednesday and everyone freaked out.

Video above: Is Facebook responsible for the Cambridge Analytica data scandal? And should you stop using it? 

Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp simultaneously went down across the world causing widespread disruptions - and mass reactions.

Unidentified technical problems caused the outage, with Facebook using Twitter to announce the issue: "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."

As we imagined Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey celebrating his revived relevance by clinking champagne glasses with shareholders and screaming "WE'RE BACK, BABY!" - the rest of us have been forced to question our own reliance on social media.

Could a Democrat have stopped this?

As users dealt with their inability to stalk their ex’s profile, or send the perfect meme to their bff, Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren -  also mortal enemy of Donald Trump - is likely tasting the sweet nectar of vindication.

Why? She proposed new laws that could have put an end to social media conglomerates.

In case you're unaware, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg owns all three problematic apps. He bought Instagram for one billion dollars in 2012 and Whatsapp two years later for $19 billion.

In the pre-election pitch, Warren vowed to break up the power of the tech world giants - like Amazon, Google and Facebook - if elected as president.

Ironically, Facebook took down her ads campaigning for the changes... before eventually backflipping on the decision and restoring them.

 Days later, Facebook - along with its sister apps Instagram and Whatsapp - all went down.

Australia ahead of the game

Australia's own consumer watchdog is also analysing the overwhelming social and economic impact of digital platforms.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is investigating how digital platforms are dominating Australian media and communications - including Facebook.

Preliminary findings released last year showed they are damn worried about Google and Facebook's market power - and they want to claw some of it back.

The ACCC considers that the strong market position of digital platforms like Google and Facebook justifies a greater level of regulatory oversight," CCC Chair Rod Sims said.

But turns out Zuckerberg might have left this interim report unread in his inbox because he has doubled down on efforts to make WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram even more connected.

Last week, the social media giant announced the introduction of end-to-end encryptions on chat service Messenger.

Although it's part of the company's new "privacy focused vision" - which Zuckerberg outlined in a lengthy 3000 word post to his own official Facebook page - it would also make the two platforms more compatible.

It's also a sign of big things to come: the potential for Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp to be merged into one.

CNET Senior Editor Claire Reilly says app users should be worried.

"We don't know how this interoperability will work and we don't know how much data will be shared between users," she said.

This merger could be Facebook's saving grace as, despite the loss in revenue, its shares rose 0.7 per cent after Zuckerberg made his statement.

But if today is anything to go by - the headache won't just be in data sharing. Any problem in one app could affect the other.