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Bug on Facebook: the thread of users severely disrupted for several hours

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Bug on Facebook: the thread of users severely disrupted for several hours
Written by madishthestylebar

The operation of Facebook was seriously disrupted, Wednesday, August 24, by a bug that affected many Internet users around the world. The news feed of users of the social network was invaded, for several hours, by messages in all languages, often brief, from unknown people.

The main commonality of these messages seemed to be that they were addressed to celebrity accounts; they mainly appeared on the feeds of people who follow these personalities on Facebook, generating some chaos. The issue seemed to be unique to Facebook; Instagram, also owned by Meta, was unaffected.

At the end of the morning, Facebook explained to the World one “configuration change has caused some users’ news feeds to malfunction. The issue was resolved as quickly as possible, and we’re sorry for the inconvenience.” The world actually saw a return to normal.

These disturbances had all the appearance of a bug affecting the classification system of the messages of the news feed of the social network. For ten years, Facebook has used an algorithm that assigns a “rating” to each content published on the platform, and selects what appears in the News Feed based on its presumed interest and the interests of each user. A potential lead is that this bug drastically overweighted the “rating” of messages addressed to public figures.

Throughout the morning, Internet users took advantage of the phenomenon to widely disseminate memes and satirical messages mocking Facebook by sending their messages to celebrity pages to ensure their wide distribution.

Messages taking advantage of the bug affecting Facebook to make fun of the malfunction.

Ultra-complex ranking algorithms

The operation of Facebook’s content ranking algorithms, which have evolved over time to include hundreds of parameters, is particularly complex. Internal Facebook documents made public at the end of 2021 by Frances Haugen, a former employee of the social network who became a whistleblower and who denounced “drifts” in the operation of the company, showed that sometimes innocuous modifications to Facebook’s tools could have unforeseen and major consequences.

“The different parts of Facebook’s applications interact with each other in complex ways” and each team develops modifications without there being a “unified systemic vision”, noted for example, in one of the documents made public, an employee of the company. With the consequence “an increased risk of problems facilitated or amplified by unforeseen interactions between functions or services of the platform”.

Read the survey: Article reserved for our subscribers How Facebook’s algorithm escapes the control of its creators

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