The internet is not exactly a free for all zone- China is known for its efforts in blocking certain social and tech giants like Facebook and Google, while some governments block the internet altogether for extreme circumstances like political unrest, as was the case for Egypt and Gabon. India, on the other hand, chooses to turn off its internet during nationwide exams.
Facebook monitors these changes through in-house tracking and communicating with people on site. The program started after Egypt’s nationwide internet outage directed towards silencing online protestors. However, Facebook’s global head of policy Matt Perault noticed that outages were still happening in different locations around the world. The only difference was that these outages were not happening on the scale that Egypt executed.
The company is trying to bring attention to these small-scale outages, not just because it affects the company, but also because temporary outages cost people money. In 2015, a Brookings report showed that the collective loss for anyone making money out of the locations that experienced outages lost 2.4 billion dollars.
Perault says that it is getting easier and cheaper for certain entities to turn off the internet in certain locations. Countries and governments can cut the connection of the internet from three specific points, such as the physical infrastructure (cables and satellites), protocol hosts and providers, and targeted applications like Facebook.
Facebook is working with Global Network Initiative to track the outages, disseminate this information, and develop ways to curb its negative effects. Facebook’s goal is to monitor these outages to consolidate possible losses, which is good planning on their part. Giving out this information helps Facebook in a different way because it allows them to help current and future partners avoid significant financial losses as well.
Currently, Facebook is monitoring an outage that has been going on for 50 days in Cameroon. Perault’s main concern is how to keep track of all these small-scale outages and how they may affect the company’s and others’ vested interests in those areas.