Fact Check: NO Proof Houthis' Attack In Red Sea Caused Meta's Global Outage On March 5, 2024

Fact Check

  • de: Ioana Burtea
Fact Check: NO Proof Houthis' Attack In Red Sea Caused Meta's Global Outage On March 5, 2024 No Connection

Did an attack by Houthi rebels in the Red Sea that appeared connected to the severing of multiple underwater internet cables lead to the Meta outage on March 5, 2024? No, that's not true: The Meta outage happened a day after confirmation that the cables had been cut, and the company said it went through a "technical issue" that was solved in approximately two hours.

The claim appeared in a video (archived here) on TikTok by user @goldfmromania on March 6, 2024, titled (translated from Romanian to English by Lead Stories staff) "The Facebook and Instagram Rumble - the connection to the war." The description was (as translated):

What was the cause (i.e. of the Meta outage)? The cause was that things are happening in the Red Sea. ... At attack took place yesterday and the Yemeni Houthis had been threatening one since the beginning of the year, saying they will destroy the underwater cables that support connectivity for several websites and platforms. The cables were only partially destroyed, but enough for those platforms to suffer an outage.

This is what the post looked like on TikTok at the time of writing:

Screenshot 2024-03-08 at 12.30.12.png

(Source: TikTok screenshot taken on Tue Mar 12 11:29:17 2024 UTC)

The Yemeni Houthis launched a missile attack on a cargo ship in the Gulf of Aden on March 4, 2024, at the same time as international media reported that three underwater cables essential to data traffic between Asia and Europe were found to be severed (archived here). However, the cables appeared to have been damaged since at least February 24, 2024, when the organization NetBlocks noticed that internet access (archived here) in the East African nation of Djibouti was suffering from interruptions. A fourth cable was reported as suffering damage on February 26, 2024 (archived here). While the Houthis had threatened to destroy the underwater lines since the beginning of the year, they issued a statement on February 27, 2024, denying responsibility for any cable damage (archived here).

The damage affected data traffic and telecommunications between Europe, the Middle East and Asia, but services were rerouted (archived here) through China and the United States, according to the telecom company that owns the cables, HGC Communications. The damage affected around 25 percent of internet traffic routed through the Red Sea.

The Meta outage happened on March 5, 2024, and affected hundreds of thousands of Facebook and Instagram users worldwide (archived here). Meta spokesperson Andy Stone said in a post on X on March 5, 2024 (archived here), the cause was a technical issue that lasted around two hours: "Earlier today, a technical issue caused people to have difficulty accessing some of our services. We resolved the issue as quickly as possible for everyone who was impacted, and we apologize for any inconvenience."

The person speaking in the video on TikTok also alleged that the Red Sea attack damaged 20 percent of the global internet traffic, which is false. All the 14 cables in the Red Sea account for around 17 percent of the world's internet traffic (archived here).

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  Ioana Burtea

Ioana Burtea has worked in journalism for over 15 years. She started her career at Mediafax news agency in Bucharest and has written for DoR magazine for over seven years. Her collaborations include publications like Europe & Me, New Eastern Europe, Balkan Insight and Washington Post. Ioana published pieces on the justice system in Romania, social affairs, politics and personal essays. In 2018, she became a fellow of the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network. In 2021, she received the first prize in the Portrait category at the national Superscrieri journalism awards. Her first non-fiction book, Fara instructiuni de folosire (transl. No operating instructions), was launched in 2023. 

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