Facebook down, and so was its digital payments site Novi

What happened to Facebook's stable coin-based payment system, Novi? It was down, too.

The timing is impeccable: Facebook and all online properties of the media giant were down; one day after a whistleblower came out of anonymity on 60 minutes supporting leaked documents that paint Facebook as a place that knowingly harbors harmful online discourse.

The sites came back online around 6 p.m. Eastern. In fintech news: what happened to their stable coin-based payment system, Novi? It was down, too. Though the Diem stable coin that will run the Novi wallet has not launched yet, reaching the site returned the same message as Whatsapp, Facebook, and Instagram: “We can’t connect to the server at www.novi.com.”

Novi down Facebook down DNS lost

It is unclear why or how Facebook was down, though reports from inside the company state that some internal email systems were down, and Facebook employees couldn’t use their ID cards to enter their buildings. 

“We’re aware that some people are having trouble accessing our apps and products,” Facebook said in its first public comment on Twitter. “We’re working to get things back to normal as quickly as possible, and we apologize for any inconvenience.”

“Novi is from Facebook, so you’ll be able to access it from your favorite apps.” the site read when it was last captured on web.archive.org

It is clear that if Novi was used as the equivalent to Visa or PayPal, customers’ money and business would be unreachable. However, reaching the site through the Wayback machine brings up proud slogans that introduce the future of payments and finance: free and easy to access. 

Multiple unnamed sources told LendIt Fintech that Facebook staff were unreachable for routine advertising calls Monday. Another reported that employees had to use personal emails and phone numbers to jump on video calls. Facebook stock was down 5 percent, leading the way of a general drop in tech stocks across the board. 

Unlike FDIC-insured deposits like those at Varo, SoFi and other online banking services, if the servers go down for cryptocurrency wallets or exchanges, the consequences are unknown.

Earlier on Monday, Tech Radar reported Coinbase was reaching out to 6,000 users who had their account data stolen between April and May 2021.

It is unclear how much was stolen by a problem in the two-factor authentication security layer, but Coinbase said it would reimburse users.

According to Down Detector, users reported problems with Twitter shortly after Facebook went offline, likely do a surge in traffic as the world realized the largest social media and communication sites were unreachable. 

What happened? 

With three billion users, 60 percent of people who have internet access the world over could not reach the site all day. As the Washington Post reported, Facebook on Monday requested a judge dismiss the ongoing FTC antitrust case because it faced competition from other services. 

Doug Madory, director of internet analysis for network monitoring company Kentik Inc. told AP News it was an epic outage. The last major downtime was in June that saw some sites dropped for an hour

Madory said the Domain Name System (DNS) routes that Facebook makes available to the networking world have been “withdrawn.” DNS translates an address like “facebook.com” to an IP address like 123.45.67.890. If Facebook’s DNS records are gone, no one could find it,” the AP said citing Madory.

The timing is interesting

The outage came one day after Frances Haugen, a former product manager at Facebook, took to 60 Minutes to decry the company culture of hypocrisy.

“The things I saw on Facebook over and over again was there were conflicts of interest between what was good for the public and what was good for Facebook,” Haugen said. “And Facebook over and over chose to optimize its own interest like making more money.”

When Haugen left her position in May, she took thousands of leaked documents with her, which points to what she says are numerous instances of mismatched decisions within Facebook that harm society.

For example, Facebook targets young girls as a growing demographic on Instagram while knowingly causing outsized harm to their mental health. 

A system called XCheck allows elites and influencers to bypass programs that normally limit hate speech and harassment. Apparently, Facebook employees attempt to flag drug cartels, organ sellers, and human traffickers, complaints to which the company ignores

Facebook even allegedly attempted to retool the algorithm that brings new content to the eyes of billions of users in 2018. However, in an effort to limit hate, internal documents show employees know the new system only made people more angry and divided. 

Haugen has been leaking documents anonymously to the Wall Street Journal for weeks but just now stepped into the public eye. 

Is printing money for shareholders misleading?

As Bloomberg contributor Matt Levine wrote, Haugen made a complaint to the SEC that complained Facebook misled investors with public statements that did not match internal actions: Could actions that make investors outsized profits be misleading?

“That the shareholders are harmed by the company maximizing profits more than they expected?” Levine wrote. “I don’t mean that it’s wrong, or logically inconsistent; it makes sense if you supply a few assumptions, (Something like: “Facebook went too far in maximizing short-term profits, in a way that is bad for its brand image and public perception, which will cause it to lose customers and be more strictly regulated, which will be bad for profits, and for shareholders, in the long run.”)”

Whether or not Haugen’s complaint to the SEC holds ground, she admits “Facebook is a for-profit company with obligations to its shareholders, and at various points, it has a choice between doing pro-social things that are expensive or doing anti-social things that maximize its profits.”

She said knowing about the internal workings helps the public and regulators with how to deal with Facebook, like writing better laws to make horrible actions illegal.

That’s not all, Folks

The Pandora Papers, published as late as Sunday night, are leaked documents showing how 336 world leaders and business executives from 90 countries are hiding and possibly embezzling $11.6 trillion worldwide. The leak is 2.94 terabytes of confidential information, representing 14 offshore services that allow public figures to buy houses, transfer funds, and steal from taxpayers. The data spans five decades, demonstrating bad behavior as early as the ’70s.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists released the culmination of two years of work, with over 600 investigators worldwide on Oct. 4. Their work has been posted on thousands of new sites as participating journalists release stories that affect their readership.

For example, the Guardian reported that Russian President Vladamir Putin’s inner circle holds millions of dollars in secret offshore wealth. Additionally, Axios reported South Dakota was named as a tax haven that has sheltered $360 billion.

Intensely energetic news reporter who finds inspiration chasing breaking news stories and covering the collision of Silicon Valley and Wall Street. Experienced in news writing, digital media production for online and print publications, newspapers, and magazines, as well as copy editing and press release revisions.

He studied history at the University of Delaware and wrote for the Review.

Email me at kevin@lendit.com with story ideas, questions, or just to say hello.

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