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Facebook has blamed a “fault configuration change” for leaving 3.5 billion users unable to access the company’s services for nearly six hours last night.

The company – which also includes Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram – crashed yesterday afternoon at around 4pm GMT, preventing users across the global from refreshing their feeds or accessing messaging services.

It wasn’t until 10pm that services were restored.

But despite the technical issues, Facebook said there’s “no evidence user data was compromised”.

Though technology outages are not uncommon, to have three of the largest apps to go down for so long at the same time is very unusual.

Appearing on the Today programme, New York Times' technology reporter Sheera Frenkel said part of the reason the outage lasted as long as it did was because employees couldn’t get into their offices to address the problem.

According to reports, the technical error didn’t just affect its services, as employees were left unable to use their work passes or emails.

“The people trying to figure out what this problem was couldn't even physically get into the building,” she said.

In a tweet, Jonathan Zittrain, director of Harvard's Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, joked that: “Facebook basically locked its keys in its car.”

The last significant outage for Facebook was in 2019 when a similar “server configuration change” caused the three apps to go down for more than 14 hours. Before then, disruption only majorly affected Facebook in 2008.

Addressing the cause of yesterday’s outage,Facebook saidthe configuration change had affected the organisation’s internal tools which had made attempts to resolve the issue extremely challenging.

“Our engineering teams have learned that configuration changes on the backbone routers that coordinate network traffic between our data centres caused issues that interrupted this communication,” a statement read.

“This disruption to network traffic had a cascading effect on the way our data centres communicate, bringing our services to a halt.”

Taking to Facebook to address the issue after it had been resolved, Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive of Facebook, apologised for the disruption.

"Sorry for the disruption today – I know how much you rely on our services to stay connected with the people you care about,” he wrote.

Though Facebook hasn't disclosed the cause of the “faulty configuration change”, BBC North America technology reporter James Claytonsaidthe statement provided by the company “doesn’t rule out foul play”.

The outage comes just a day after a former Facebook employee andwhistle-blower told CBS newsthe company put “growth over safety” after failing to share its findings that Instagram was affecting the mental health of teenagers.

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