Social media goes mad as … social media goes down in #Socialmeltdown2015

27 Jan 2015

Nuclear explosion image via Pierre J/Flickr

“Facebook? Down. Instagram? Down. Twitter? Up. WhatsApp? Hold on … yes, up.” In the years to come, future generations will be asking you, “Where were you during the #socialmeltdown2015?”

While us in Ireland are known for our slight overreactions when it comes to a bit of snow, the deluge of ice that has been hitting the east coast of the US has genuinely left many people stranded in their homes, unable to venture outside.

So what do people in the modern age do when they’re stuck inside for prolonged periods of time? Why, go on social media, of course, and complain about it.

Then, at 2am EST, users staying up late happened to notice something was very, very wrong with their Facebook and Instagram (owned by Facebook) profiles: the whole system was down.

However, this fault was not limited to those caught up in ‘#Snowmaggedon2015’, it affected almost the entire world – particularly the US and India – before returning approximately one hour later.

What caused it?

Given the severe weather on the east coast, it was first assumed that snow had some part to play in hitting the vast servers required by Facebook to store the data of over 1bn people, but given the widespread nature of the problem, it didn’t take long for a suggestion that a massive denial of service (DDoS) attack may have taken place.

Not one to shy away from an opportunity based off these assumptions, the infamous Lizard Squad were quick to take credit for taking down not just Facebook and Instagram, but also Tinder, AIM and Hipchat.

At the time live trackers of DDoS attacks, particularly Norse – IPViking which produces an incredible live map of attacks against particular IP addresses, looked like something akin to a world war three scenario in an 80s movie.


Every line and dot represents a DDoS attack with China appearing to be the source of the vast majority on this occassion. Image via Norse – IPViking

Twitter: the panic zeitgeist sets in

As the largest social media platform that wasn’t affected by the outage, Twitter became the place to take people’s frustrations and panic.

In reality, in the hour Facebook et al were down, it became a collage of people who may need to seek help for social media addiction, minor internet celebrities seeking some more attention and finally, companies also looking to jump on the bandwagon by spamming their account with #socialmeltdown2015 and #facebookdown in the hope of getting shared.

Staggeringly, police outfits in many countries have genuinely had to address the fact that a number of people were so affected by the downtime that they decided to waste their time with emergency calls.

Facebook have spoken

And while Lizard Squad still maintain their lack of innocence for the whole affair, Facebook have raised their head above the parapet stating to the media that actually, it was a massive error on their part attributing it to “a change that affected our configuration systems”.

Those in Europe who fear that their workdays might now become more productive can rest easy in the knowledge that all services now appear to be back up and running.

So relax, social media-ites, you can once again flock to Facebook to share your woes and unfollow friends who repeatedly post videos of cats, dogs or other four legged-creatures.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic