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Facebook Disappears from the Internet; Globally, People Assume Censorship

Figure 1: People around the world naturally turned to Psiphon in response to the Facebook outage.

 Summary:

  • Psiphon’s global usage surged by 1.75 Million daily unique users during the Facebook outage on October 4th, 2021.
  • The rise was particularly acute in regions where Facebook platforms - including Instagram, WhatsApp, and Facebook itself - experience regular disruptions due to intermittent, but active censorship.
  • The regions that saw the most significant increases in usage include several countries where major censorship events have occurred within the past few years: Azerbaijan, Cuba, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Iraq, Libya, Mexico, Sudan, and Syria.
  • Cuba showed a 4.6x increase from baseline usage, from 70,000 to over 300,000 daily unique users, reinforcing Psiphon’s important role in the region. In July 2021, the Psiphon network supported a surge of 1.4M users from Cuba during targeted blocking of social media and messaging platforms, a still-immanent threat from censors.
  • This demonstrates that Psiphon is a key and trusted global connectivity solution.

On October 4th, Facebook experienced a significant global outage affecting all of its platforms, including Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp. The outage, which lasted for at least 6 hours, was widely reported and had a dramatic impact on users of the platform.

In the days that followed, analysis by network monitors like Cloudflare and Kentik revealed how Facebook had, functionally, disappeared from the Internet. But for users, the inaccessibility of Facebook platforms evidently resonated with major censorship events that previously targeted these apps and websites. As before, enabling Psiphon followed as a natural response to the failure to access Facebook and its other products.

Psiphon’s global usage surged by over 1.75 Million users during the day of the outage. The growth was particularly acute in regions such as Cuba that have experienced significant, intermittent censorship events, but even in regions experiencing less direct censorship, such as Indonesia, significant growth was also observed.

The population scale uptake is a clear indication of the trust that Psiphon has accrued through its in supporting user connectivity globally. Since online censorship is likewise often opaque and difficult to attribute, the Facebook outage though of a technical in nature was in many ways not readily distinguishable from a blocking event. Often the last platform standing during censorship events, Psiphon adoption during the outage appears a natural and immediate reaction to presumed filtering.

The visualizations below show the surge in Psiphon daily active users in response to the outage.

Azerbaijan: 35,000 users (8x)
Cuba: 300,000 users (4.6x)
Ethiopia: 45,000 users (1.9x)
Indonesia: 250,000 users (1.9x)
Iraq: 210,000 users (11x)
Libya: 22,000 users (1.8x)
Mexico: 38,000 users (1.5x)
Sudan: 100,000 users (2.4x)
Syria: 225,000 users (1.5x)

Please note that the data shown can be accessed through Psiphon’s public data access portal, https://psix.ca. The Psiphon data portal is part of our full and ongoing commitment to open source software and open data.

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