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Facebook glitch briefly blocked users from accessing 3rd-party Internet sites

Posted Feb 8, 2013 9:05 AM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Depending on your perspective, a Facebook fail that reportedly interrupted service to thousands, perhaps even millions, of third-party websites for less than an hour on Thursday was either a minor glitch or a troubling reminder of the extent to which a powerful Internet site can control the actions of computer users.

Beginning at around 4 p.m. Pacific time, those who had opened Facebook but not actually logged out of their account (even if they had closed their browser) were directed to a Facebook error page when they tried to log onto third-party sites ranging from CNN to WikiAnswers, according to CNET, InfoWorld and Mashable, among numerous other accounts of the brief debacle.

It stated: "An error occurred. Please try again later." The only way to get out of this loop was to log off of Facebook.

Ordinarily, Facebook simply keeps track of the sites its account-holders visit, the articles they read and the images they view and share. But, as yesterday's service interruption shows, the site also has the power to, as Mashable puts it, "kill the Internet."

In a written statement, Facebook said: "For a short period of time, there was a bug that redirected people logging in with Facebook from third party sites. The issue was quickly resolved and Login with Facebook is now working as usual."

But, in fact, any site that relies on Facebook Connect for user authentication was hijacked to the Facebook error page, Mashable says, even if an individual wasn't actively trying to log in to a third-party site but simply had both Facebook and another site open.

Additional coverage:

Computerworld: "Facebook is malware, people suddenly realize"

TG Daily: "How Facebook brought down the internet"

ThinkDigit News: "Facebook Connect glitch brings the Internet to a standstill, temporarily"

WBIW: "Facebook Glitch Knocks Out Internet"

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