How Facebook Briefly Hijacked The Internet, Taking Millions Hostage

By Alexandra Burlacu email: a.burlacu@mobilenapps.com | Feb 10, 2013 11:25 AM EST

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Facebook had a temporary bug with its embedded widgets, pulling millions from various Web sites to Facebook itself only to display an error message.

The glitch has now been fixed, but for a while it left some of the world's largest sites inaccessible, including CNN, NBC News, The Washington Post, BuzzFeed, and many more. Basically, when users tried to access an account that was linked to Facebook, the social networking site pulled them from the respective Web site and transferred them to a Facebook error page instead.

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The Next Web's (TNW) Alex Wilhelm first tweeted about this issue at 4:15 P.M. on Thursday, Feb. 7, after attempting to access a news site.

"Reading article. Dragged from two diff sites to Facebook, which displays what appears to be a permission error. Wa?" tweeted Wilhelm.

The glitch was ultimately linked to Facebook Connect and was fixed around 4:40 P.M. after the social networking site had already hijacked the Internet and taken millions of hostages.

Facebook acknowledged that it had a bug and issued a statement assuring users that the glitch had been fixed, but did not elaborate further on the matter.

"For a short period of time, there was a bug that redirected people logging in with Facebook from third-party sites to Facebook.com. The issue was quickly resolved, and Login with Facebook is now working as usual," the social networking giant said in a short statement issued to the media.

Until the issue was resolved, millions of users trying to log in to other Web sites using their Facebook account were redirected to Facebook's own site and greeted by the error message: "An error occurred. Please try again later."

While Facebook acknowledged the issue and announced it had resolved it, the social networking giant did not apologize in any way for stealing millions of pageviews from its partners. In fact, as TNW points out, Facebook did not even say how it plans to avoid such issues from occurring again.

This time, the only way to escape the issue was to log out of Facebook altogether and try to visit other Web sites afterwards. The issue further highlights how ubiquitous Facebook widgets are and how wide-reaching Facebook Connect actually is. The incident highlights the vulnerabilities and how a single site can wreak havoc on the Internet.

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