Oct 5, 2021 - Podcasts

Facebook’s very bad few days

Yesterday, Facebook faced a major outage that knocked out all of its apps — Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp — for hours, across the globe. This came on the heels of revelations by whistleblower Francis Haugen, a former Facebook employee who leaked thousands of documents showing how the platform prioritizes profits over people.

  • Plus, the scramble to contain one of the largest oil spills in California’s history.
  • And, dating apps get political in Texas.

Guests: Axios' Sara Fischer, Andrew Freedman and Michael Mooney.

Credits: Axios Today is produced in partnership with Pushkin Industries. The team includes Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Dan Bobkoff, Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Sabeena Singhani, Lydia McMullen-Laird, David Toledo, Michael Hanf, and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

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NIALA: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!

It’s Tuesday, October 5th. I’m Niala Boodhoo.

Here’s what you need to know today: containing one of the largest oil spills in California’s history. Plus, dating apps in Texas get political.

But first, today’s One Big Thing: Facebook’s VERY bad few days.

It's been a very bad few days for Facebook. Yesterday, it faced a major outage that knocked out all of its apps for hours, Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp all over the world. And this came on the heels of revelations by whistleblower Francis Haugen, a former Facebook employee who leaked thousands of documents showing the way Facebook prioritizes profits over people, especially young people. Haugen is set to testify today on Capitol Hill.

Axios' media reporter, Sara Fischer is here with what we need to know and what comes next for Facebook. Hey Sara.


NIALA: Sara, first off, let's just start with Facebook stock, which took a dive over all of those things that I just mentioned. What's going on there?

SARA: Yeah, Niala. So Facebook stock hit a record high of $382 for a share price. In early September, September 7th. But ever since it's been on this sort of slow, steady decline until today, when it took a pretty big nosedive in response to a whistleblower interview with CBS last night, as well as a worldwide outage across its main app, Facebook, as well as Instagram and WhatsApp.

And it's problematic Niala because Facebook stock doesn't normally tank like this, unless there's some sort of major business news, like they announced that they're going to face big headwinds next quarter, or there's a start of a new rule that makes it harder for them to target users like GDPR in 2018. It doesn't normally slide in response to sort of scandals and leaks the way it has with this whistleblower situation.

NIALA: It’s hard I think not to jump to conclusions about yesterday's outage being related to the whistleblower news. Is it?

SARA: I don't think so. I think that the last thing Facebook wants is another crisis on top of a crisis. And I think that they've experienced outages in the past. You know, there's a lot of different networks that support Facebook apps around the world. So I don't think they're related, but I do think the timing is terrible for Facebook.

NIALA: Sara, there were also a lot of jokes about this on networks that were up like Twitter. But in all seriousness, what was the scale of the fallout from the outage? Who’s been affected?

SARA: Well the users are affected of course. I mean, they've been checking their apps all day, complaining on other platforms, wanting them to get back on. Millions of businesses and merchants that rely on Facebook to sell goods and to communicate to customers are definitely being impacted by this. For sure. And then I think the last thing is that the company, the employees, the people internally are impacted by this, because it's a distraction the day before they're having an executive get hauled in front of Capitol Hill, the day after a whistleblower revealed themselves. This is just the last thing that the company needs right now.

NIALA: Sara, given the last 72 hours, what are you watching for? What are you thinking about next when it comes to Facebook?

SARA: I'm looking at its share price. If it continues to go down, you know, Facebook's earnings or a few weeks away. You can look at it one of two ways. One is that investors are sort of building in some of the headwinds that Facebook has alluded to earlier this quarter into the stock ahead of earnings or the other could be that this whistleblower scandal and the outage today among other things is just continuing to weigh heavily on the stock. And I want to see how low it can go. Then the other thing I'm going to be watching for is, where is Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg? To date we have not seen them come out and talk about this at all. It's all been Nick Clegg, their VP of policy and Antigone Davis, their head of safety. They haven't had the two top dogs come out and address this whatsoever. I want to know at what point are they forced to come out and talk about it?

NIALA: Sara Fischer is the author of the weekly Axios Media Trends newsletter, and a media reporter. Thank you, Sara.

SARA: Thank you Niala.

NIALA: Back in a moment with an update on a massive California oil spill.

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NIALA: Welcome back to Axios Today. I'm Niala Boodhoo.

Cleanup efforts are underway in Orange County, California after one of the biggest oil spills in the state's history. An estimated 126,000 gallons of crude oil leaked into the water off the coast of Huntington Beach this weekend.

Axios’ climate and energy reporter Andrew Freedman has the latest. Hi Andrew.


NIALA: Hey Andrew, can you put this in context for us? How does this compare to previous spills?

ANDREW: So it's a lot of oil. Once you go beyond 100,000 gallons, you know, you're into some of the biggest in the past 20 years, at least. It's much smaller than the Exxon Valdez. It's much smaller than the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico, but it's a sizable spill that happened only about five miles off shore in a very highly populated area.

There's also the sense among Californians, I think at least Californians that I've been talking to, that are like, “Okay, we've been smoked out of our homes. We've been, you know, watching our state burn and now we can't even go to the beach.”

NIALA: The AP yesterday was reporting that it took almost a full day for the company responsible to respond to the spill. How crucial is timing when responding to an event like this?

ANDREW: So it's quite crucial, you need to quickly figure out what the source of the spill is. You need to quickly be able to start to contain that spill. The company, which is a pretty small oil services firm based in Houston, called Amplify Energy - they say that there is no more oil that appears to be leaking at this point. So it's really dealing with the aftereffects of whatever discharge there was during whatever time period it was leaking,

NIALA: What do we know about the aftereffects? How long will it take to clean?

ANDREW: Some of these beaches might be closed for months. There's just going to be too much oil residues moving onto the beach that's hazardous both to people and wildlife. We don't yet know the true toll on wildlife. But we've seen photo evidence of dolphins swimming in the oil slick. We've seen evidence of seals in the area. This is very much an area of great biodiversity. We should know a little bit more about the true toll of this within the next 24 to 36 hours.

NIALA: Andrew Freedman is Axios’ climate and energy reporter. Thanks, Andrew.

ANDREW: Thanks for having me.

NIALA: This past weekend, hundreds of marches took place around the country in support of abortion rights and protesting a restrictive abortion law passed last month in Texas. Companies behind dating apps are also speaking out in support of reproductive rights. Big Texas-based apps like OkCupid and Bumble are responding to the law with new features and fundraising efforts.

Dallas is one of the newest local newsletters from Axios and reporter Michael Mooney has the story. Hey, Michael.


NIALA: So how are these companies reacting to Texas' latest abortion?

MICHAEL: Well, in a variety of ways - OkCupid has a pro-choice badge that users can use. And they also allow users to filter potential matches by political views. For every user, that uses one of these pro-choice badges, they're going to donate a dollar to Planned Parenthood.

NIALA: Is there any data from profiles on these sites to tell us how people are feeling about this law? How many people are using these badges?

MICHAEL: They do have some statistics on people who have labeled themselves pro-choice and the numbers nationwide are up like almost 20% over the last year. And in Texas, in particular around 90% of both men and women identify as pro-choice.

NIALA: Why do you think this story matters?

MICHAEL: Well, one, you know, everything is political, including and especially romance, but also, I think it shows that this law just has fallout and ramifications that stretch across all aspects of society.

NIALA: Michael Mooney is a co-author of the Axios Dallas newsletter. Thanks, Michael.

MICHAEL: Thank you.

NIALA: Before we go today -- the next round of Nobel Prizes are being announced this week. Yesterday, David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for discoveries related to receptors for temperature and touch. This research is helping us better understand how our nervous system senses heat, cold and mechanical stimuli -- even how we feel when hugging loved ones - which feels especially relevant after a year and a half of isolation. Plus, experts say findings could lead to new ways to combat pain.

The Nobel Committee will continue to announce winners this week, including for Physics, Chemistry, and Literature.

That’s all we’ve got for you today!

I’m Niala Boodhoo - thanks for listening - stay safe and we’ll see you back here tomorrow morning.

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