Mark Zuckerberg May Be Having the Worst Week of His Life and It Is Only Monday

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has spent months preparing for this week. And it still got off to a much worse start than even he could have imagined.

Ahead of congressional hearings on the company this week, Facebook employee-turned-whistleblower Frances Haugen leaked internal company documents appearing to show the world's biggest social media platform prioritized profits over the public good—at the expense of everything from democratic stability and civil discourse to the mental health of teenagers.

Haugen, hired in 2019 to address misinformation circulating on Facebook, shared the documents with The Wall Street Journal, which published a series of articles about them last month. On Sunday night, Haugen appeared on 60 Minutes, claiming the company is lying about making progress against hate, violence and misinformation on the platform.

"The thing I saw at Facebook over and over again was there were conflicts of interest between what was good for the public and what was good for Facebook, and Facebook over and over again chose to optimize for its own interests, like making more money," she said on the show.

She claimed among other things that Facebook scrapped its civic integrity team following the 2020 presidential election and said it is "substantially worse" at limiting misinformation than other digital media companies, including Google and Pinterest.

One internal Facebook study she found reportedly said, "We estimate that we may action as little as three to five percent of hate and about six tenths of one percent of violence and incitement on Facebook, despite being the best in the world at it." Another found that Instagram harms the mental well-being of teenage girls, she said.

On Sunday, Zuckerberg shared photos of himself fencing and sailing on his Facebook profile, even as widespread criticism came rolling in.

Then, massive outages on Monday forced him and the platform's over 2 billion users to stop posting. The outages affected not only Facebook, but also Instagram and WhatsApp, services owned by the company.

Internet watchdog NetBlocks estimates that just one hour of the platforms being shut down mean losses of more than $160 million for the company. Facebook shares tumbled nearly 5 percent Monday. When it comes to Zuckerberg's personal wealth, he has reportedly lost $6 billion in the hours since the outage.

Furthermore, Facebook employees on Monday reportedly could not enter company buildings or access their internal communications platform, preventing them from examining the extent of the disruption.

The outages may have been caused by DNS routing issues, according to Doug Madory, director of internet analysis for Kentik Inc. DNS routers help direct internet traffic to websites by translating an address such as facebook.com into an IP address.

At about 6 p.m. ET Facebook appeared to be back up and running, but it marked the worst outage for the service since a 2019 incident forced it offline for more than 24 hours. Hardest hit by Monday's downtime were small businesses and creators relying on the platform for income.

Troubles continued to mount on Monday when a member of a known forum for hackers claimed to be in possession of the personal information of about 1.5 billion Facebook users from across the globe, offering to sell it in chunks to other users on the forum.

The hacker claimed the information included the name, email address, location, gender, phone number and user ID attached to each Facebook account.

Mark Zuckerberg
Facebook experienced mounting crises on Monday as it dealt with blowback over reports it placed profit over the public good, a massive outage of its services, and privacy concerns brought on by an alleged hack. Above, Mark Zuckerberg testifies before Congress in April 2018. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

If the information was obtained by data scraping, as claimed by the hacker, no actual accounts are likely to have been compromised yet.

Still, accounts could be accessed if the data was acquired by the right kind of cybercriminal. It might also be used by marketing operations to push specific ads on affected users.

That could be another challenge for the company as it addresses financial hits from the outage and mounting concern from lawmakers.

Haugen is expected to urge Congress to regulate the social media giant when she addresses a Senate Commerce subcommittee Tuesday. Senators from both sides of the aisle may meet the company with some iciness, with Democrats concerned about misinformation and Republicans decrying censorship by social media companies.

In a prepared testimony obtained by Reuters, Haugen likened Facebook to tobacco companies, which long denied that smoking was detrimental to health.

"When we realized tobacco companies were hiding the harms it caused, the government took action. When we figured out cars were safer with seatbelts, the government took action," said Haugen's written testimony. "I implore you to do the same here."

Depending on how lawmakers respond to her call, this week's difficulties could be just a taste of troubles to come for Zuckerberg and Facebook.