Outage shows how vital Facebook has become in the world

NEW YORK (AP) – The six-hour outage on Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp has been a headache for many casual users, but far more serious for the millions of people around the world who depend on social media sites to manage their business or communicate with relatives, parents, teachers or neighbors.

When all three services went dark on Monday, it was a stark reminder of the power and reach of Facebook, which owns the photo-sharing and messaging apps.

All over the world, the loss of WhatsApp has left many people lost. In Brazil, the messaging service is by far the most used app in the country, installed on 99% of all smartphones, according to technology pollster Mobile Time.

WhatsApp has become essential in Brazil for communicating with friends and families, but also at work – many companies use it to stay in touch with their customers – at university and for day-to-day transactions such as ordering food.

Offices, various departments and even courts are struggling to make appointments and the phone lines are overwhelmed.

Hundreds of thousands of Haitians in their home countries and abroad have expressed concern over the WhatsApp outage.

Many of the country’s over 11 million people depend on it to alert each other about gang violence in a particular region or to talk to relatives in the United States about money transfers and other issues. urgent matters, while Haitian migrants traveling to the United States rely on him to find or share key information such as safe places to sleep.

Nelzy Mireille, a 35-year-old unemployed woman who relies on money sent from relatives overseas, said she stopped at a phone repair shop in the capital of Port-au-Prince because she thought her phone was malfunctioning.

“I was waiting for confirmation of a money transfer from my cousin,” she said. “I was so frustrated.”

“I couldn’t hear about my love,” complained Wilkens Bourgogne, 28, referring to his partner, who was in the neighboring Dominican Republic, buying affordable products to bring back to Haiti.

He said he was concerned for his safety as they were unable to communicate for seven hours as Haiti grapples with increased gang violence.

“The insecurity worries everyone,” he said.

Meanwhile, for small businesses, Facebook and Instagram outages meant hundreds or thousands of dollars in lost revenue.

“Today’s blackout has highlighted our addiction to Facebook – and its properties like Whatsapp and Instagram -” said Brooke Erin Duffy, professor of communications at Cornell University. She said there are sprawling categories of workers whose livelihoods depend on the functioning of the platforms.

She said the outage is just one example of how vulnerable entrepreneurs and small businesses are whenever Facebook or others introduce a new feature or make another change that affects how sites operate.

Sarah Murdoch runs a small Seattle-based travel agency called Adventures with Sarah and relies on Facebook Live videos to promote her tours. She estimated that the outage cost her thousands of dollars in reservations.

“I’ve tried other platforms because I’m wary of Facebook, but none of them are as powerful for the type of content I create,” Murdoch said. As for his losses, “maybe it’s just a few people, but we’re small enough that it hurts.”

Heather Lynton has run a portrait studio in Lynton, Indiana for 18 years. She takes photos for schools and sports teams and makes yard signs with the photos. She has her own website, but said parents and other clients most often try to reach her through social media.

She said she might have lost three or four reservations for photoshoots at $ 200 per client.

“A lot of people only have a specific window when they can make orders and reservations and things like that,” she said. “If they can’t get a direct answer, they go to someone else.

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AP reporters Evens Sanon in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Diane Jeantet in Rio de Janeiro and Débora Álvares in Brasilia contributed to this report.

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