Mark Zuckerberg’s personal wealth has fallen by nearly $7 billion in a few hours, knocking him down a notch on the list of the world’s richest people, after a whistle-blower came forward and outages took Facebook’s flagship products offline.
A sell-off sent the social-media giant’s stock plummeting around 5 per cent on Monday, adding to a drop of about 15 per cent since mid-September.
The stock slide on Monday sent Zuckerberg’s worth down to $120.9 billion, dropping him below Bill Gates to No. 5 on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. He’s lost about $19 billion of wealth since September 13, when he was worth nearly $140 billion, according to the index.
On September 13, the Wall Street Journal began publishing a series of stories based on a cache of internal documents, revealing that Facebook knew about a wide range of problems with its products — such as Instagram’s harm to teenage girls’ mental health and misinformation about the January 6 Capitol riots — while downplaying the issues in public. The reports have drawn the attention of government officials. In response, Facebook has emphasised that the issues facing its products, including political polarisation, are complex and not caused by technology alone.
‘Faulty configuration change’ to blame
Facebook blamed a “faulty configuration change” for a nearly six-hour outage on Monday that prevented the company’s 3.5 billion users from accessing its social media and messaging services such as WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger.
The company in a late Monday blog post did not specify who executed the configuration change and whether it was planned.
Several Facebook employees who declined to be named had told Reuters earlier that they believed that the outage was caused by an internal mistake in how internet traffic is routed to its systems.
The failures of internal communication tools and other resources that depend on that same network in order to work compounded the error, the employees said. Security experts have said an inadvertent mistake or sabotage by an insider were both plausible.
FB’s loss turns into gain for Signal, Telegram
Facebook’s loss turned into a gain for other social media. Signal and Telegram, two private messenger apps, saw downloads and user sign-ups soar during the extended downtime of Facebook’s network of apps and services.
Millions of new users joined the Edward Snowden-endorsed Signal on Monday, it said on Twitter. Telegram, whose functionality closely mirrors that of WhatsApp, surged 55 places to top the US iPhone download chart, according to Sensor Tower.
Twitter’s network stayed online, with Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey tweeting his endorsement of Signal as a suitable WhatsApp alternative and amplifying Snowden’s urging of his followers to move away from the Facebook-owned app. Thousands of rooms on audio-chat app Clubhouse had people talking about the outage, a spokeswoman for the service said, adding that all its main metrics rose.
‘No malicious activity behind service outage’
Facebook said “there was no malicious activity behind” a faulty configuration change that knocked all of its services off the internet.