Unsolicited Advice: How Can Facebook Prevent the Latest Screwup

In the last 5 days, Facebook has been under pressure, the whistleblower who broke the stories to The Wall Street Journal of specifically Instagram monitoring and adjusting knowingly content with the intent to harm teenage girls came forward to 60 Minutes Sunday night. While it made media play the following morning, around lunch hour, Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp all experienced outages  at least for the rest of the day till roughly 6:00 pm Eastern Time when some of the services returned

On Tuesday, it was reported that Facebook had made changes to their core servers that resulted in the outages. In the midst of the outages, rumors flew that Facebook employees literally had to go into the data center physically to perform the reboot. Another cause was a screwup to the Border Gateway Protocol routing tables. This is one of several IP routing protocols to route Internet traffic between machines and users.

Both have no excuse. I have some solutions:

1. Facebook violated COPPA, both on the letter and spirit of the law

For those who say the rules and regs have to be rewritten for a modern era of technology is frankly bullshitting you. The Children’s Online Privacy and Protection Act or COPPA was designed to protect all children under the magic age of 13 as they put into the regs from being tracked, monitored specifically personally identifiable information or PII. And even if the users were over 13, this doesn’t give Facebook the ethical or moral standards to treat a 14 year old user the same as a 24 year old because the world is not flat or bland, where everyone should be treated 100.0000.0000.000% the same.

If anything, Facebook should be fined if there is data that was harvested for the persons under the age of 13. The Instagram for kids app that Facebook was contemplating should be reviewed by a legal firms to ensure it’s all compliant to the existing COPPA regulations, and not universities.

2. Whistleblowers need to be protected (legally)

One of the provisions of the controversial Dodd-Frank law, was to address a decades old issue of how can a company prevent another Enron. Part of this was providing bounty support for anyone who was open and willing to report nefarious actions by corporate executives. While the Trump administration got rid most of the law (because it had Obama-fingerprints on it, other than promoting an indiscriminate free-market agenda) this whistleblower protection still exists because the law was the basis for the whistle blower to come forward since Facebook is a publicly held company.

There should be no legal shame for these people to come forward. It’s typical for a publicly held company to be responsible financially for wrongdoings, but Faceebook is with a zillion dollars by science of public perception, and the idea they can’t seem to have enough money to finance (or “fund”) a group of people to make Facebook’s platforms safe for everyone?

3. Facebook needs to not only employ security and safety, but FFS no one that is running the server farm has no knowledge on IP?

This clearly shows how people (even nerds and techies) assume the Internet is the Web or a platform, not a underlying protocol to connect machines to users. The Monday outage seemed to show how Facebook appears to be running on plastic clad routers or hubs. Worse, I suspect since Facebook’s own servers are built in house, that I wouldn’t be surprised to see if their networking was built in house too (read Software Defined Networking.) I wouldn’t be surprised to see if they shoplifted some open source code for routing and switching that in reality is designed for light traffic and lacks important critical features that would be required for a site like Facebook, and apps like Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp.

4. After this incident coders can’t be taken seriously anymore

The guys who brag they know Python, are real jerks. I am going out of my way to call them “zealots”. They are completely intolerant to anything that doesn’t interest them. They don’t care about  QoS, or IP routing, all they care about is their own type of networking that the rest of us don’t see it as. Technology professionals need to look at themselves in the mirror, to see if their one skillset is worth having a job in the first place. Just like in telephony, the phone guys didn’t get IP, and the networking admins didn’t understand the underlying telephony features, the same applies to networking admins and server admins. Look at how Microsoft sucks at VOIP because Windows guys don’t get Cisco’s IOS, and how lousy the constantly rebadged Unified Communications System showed that?

Brag about your skills in Python, but Python won’t save you from screwing up a routing table.

And if you disagree with me, then you lack empathy, you lack diversity, and you must be a little creepy perv to spy on underage girls’ PII.

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