Perspective: When it all depends on an application …

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It’s been a tough week for Facebook.

On Sunday, Frances Haugen – the Facebook whistleblower – spoke with 60 minutes and explained in detail how the company not only knew that its products were contributing significant damage, but had deliberately withheld this information from the public. And then on Monday, in what many saw as some sort of poetic justice, Facebook and all of its products unexpectedly shut down for more than six hours, the platform’s worst outage since 2008.

But I don’t mean the inconvenience of being without your daily dose of vaccination conspiracy or not being able to post any footage from Monday’s lunch to your Instagram story. I’m talking about the other app that’s been hit hard – Whatsapp.

Whatsapp is a cross-platform messaging and VoIP service acquired by Facebook in 2014. Its popularity in the United States is limited. In fact, you might never have even heard of it. But it is huge elsewhere in the world, especially in the south of the world, where Whatsapp has emerged as the primary means of telecommunication for individuals, government offices and private industry. So when Facebook went down, Whatsapp followed it and millions of people lost touch with the outside world.

It was more than an inconvenience, it was a matter of life and livelihood. As Facebook has grown, it has become an indispensable part of the lives of many people, much like a public service. But unlike a utility, the business has operated with little or no oversight or regulation. This week just might be the tipping point.

I am David Gunkel and this is my point of view.


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