Facebook Engineer Apologizes Via Reddit For Accidentally Blocking Imgur Across Facebook

from the web-3.0 dept

Here’s an odd one. Yesterday, I saw that a top story in the technology subreddit was a claim that Facebook was blocking Imgur, the popular image hosting service (especially popular with Redditors, but which we use here as well). This screenshot was shown (hosted on Imgur, natch):

A few hours later, however, an interesting comment popped up on the Reddit thread, from a user “fisherrider,” who claimed to be a Facebook engineer taking responsibility for the situation. What’s somewhat stunning is that when companies screw up something, you almost never get this level of honesty about the nature of what happened (especially directly from the person who screwed up):

Hey folks – so this is actually my fault. Literally, I’m the guy who accidentally blocked imgur for a brief period of time today. I’m really sorry. Some background: I’m an engineer who works on the system we use for catching malicious URLs. In the process of dealing with a bad URL that our automated defenses didn’t catch, I ran into a rare bug that caused us to incorrectly block some legitimate URLs for a brief time. Right after I figured that out and removed the bad data, I reworked the UI so no one will get bit by the same issue in the future. As a form of apology that I’m sure is insufficient, here is a picture of my dog dressed up for the 4th of July: https://imgur.com/pR4mR

As some have noted, this really is a fantastic apology. It’s not filtered through PR and actually seems to come from someone who sounds human — which is pretty important in the midst of the Reddit faithful. But it should spread beyond just Reddit. When companies screw up, this is a pretty good lesson in how to respond. Admit to the screwup, be clear and honest about it, and explain what happened and what’s been done to prevent it from happening again. And… don’t let it near a PR person.

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Companies: facebook, imgur, reddit

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Comments on “Facebook Engineer Apologizes Via Reddit For Accidentally Blocking Imgur Across Facebook”

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John Doe says:

Same apology but done through PR department

A mistake was made, not necessarily by us, that caused some content to be blocked. We cannot vouch for the blocked content or the people who posted said content. But some of you want that content and we have decided to give you that content. We are sorry for any inconvenience whether it was real or imagined.

In small print, the apology above does not indicate any wrong doing on our part.

Beta (profile) says:


I see three possibilities:

1) This was cooked up by PR, as a way to soothe the nerds without taking any risk. The company has made no official statement, the message is unauthenticated and deniable, the author is not to the engineer who made the block, but Facebook can withhold that fact or reveal it, depending on how the wind blows.

2) The message is real, and unauthorized, and the author might well get fired for it.

3) The message is real, and some PR person showed rare insight in the decision to authorize it.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re:

People have a generally positive relationship with their search engines, and the 70,000 or so people surveyed by ACSI, for some reason, like FoxNews.com.

Priceless sarcasm or innocent joke?

On a related note, I like Google+ better than Facebook. Not that I use FB that much (I log once a month) but If ppl were mostly at google+ I’d ditch FB for good. Much like I did with Orkut.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Arresting an innocent man is better than letting a terrorist at large. Exaggerations apart, I’m ok with a few spams going through. The community can help filter it and isolate the accounts that are spamming. A much more productive task for the engineers would be to help filter out links directing to malware and the likes.

:Lobo Santo (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Skull and BoneS!

So, what with the death penalty and all–rephrasing what you’ve said–it’s better to accidentally kill an innocent person as long as no guilty people are left alive?

Your logic is backwards, better a murderer go free than put one innocent person to death.

Don’t buy into the State’s terrorist propaganda bullshit, or you’ll find yourself both innocent and imprisoned, just like you’ve accidentally advocated.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Skull and BoneS!

I cant determine whether its sense of entitlement or hyperbole. god forbid you work anywhere that utilizes websense, which apparently is responsible for killing innocent people. Since that is akin to accidentally and temporarily blocking a third party service.

iamtheky (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Skull and BoneS!

the logical extreme would be assigning facebook brick and mortar criteria with credentialed access. And I would still much rather have that physical security accidentally block someone with valid credentials, over accidentally allowing unauthorized access.

just because some random two examples involve an aggrieved party, does not make the context accurate nor the conclusions appropriate.

Innocent Victim says:

Re: Not just them

The popular web-blocking/filtering tool WebSense marks imgur as “personal storage site”, and this definition file is used by thousands of corporate and edu sites. Once you are on the WebSense filter list, its really really hard to get off it. geocaching.com and the groundspeak forums are blocked by WebSense as malicious even though the sites have proven clean for years.

Anonymous Coward says:

Isn’t it sad when an apology/press release about an incident is handled better by an engineer than the PR department?

Now maybe we should try apply the same concept with copyright, trade negotiations, and internet censorship (or openness). Take out the politicians, lawyers, and lobbyists and put in engineers. We might actually see common sense, logic, solutions and even transparency/documentation!

Gwiz (profile) says:

Isn’t it sad when an apology/press release about an incident is handled better by an engineer than the PR department?

It’s been my observation that engineering departments handle a lot of things better than other departments inside a corporation.

I think it may have something to do with the fact that engineers usually deal in hard facts and data.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

It’s been my observation that engineering departments handle a lot of things better than other departments inside a corporation.

I think it may have something to do with the fact that engineers usually deal in hard facts and data.

Might also have something to do with the fact that it’s an engineer’s job to solve a problem or the corporation gets another one who will.

If a lawyer, politican, or PR person makes a problem worse, it’s standard practice….

FBP Developer says:

Facebook is also blocking links to my site for no reason

FB Purity is one of the top rated browser extensions on addons.mozilla.org and yet facebook is blocking links to the fbpurity.com website, something is seriously wrong here. FB Purity is a very highly rated and well respected browser extension, that lets you customise and clean up your facebook experience. For Facebook to block links to the site and claim they are “spammy and unsafe” is libellous and and also ironic, considering it helps block spam on facebook.

Facebook need to come clean over this and unblock the site, like they have done with the imgur debacle.

Anonymous Coward says:

I have no concerns about Facebook. Don’t care if it craters tomorrow and never gets revived.

My comment is more along the lines of the honesty of the engineer. It’s a shame in this day and age of personal evaluation into job performance that this level of honesty in admitting a mistake isn’t recognized for the quality of the employee.

No one that does things is going to have a perfect record on screw ups. They are going to happen unless you do nothing day after day. When they do, the employee that says, ‘It’s my fault and this is what I did’, just saved his company tons of money in trouble shooting. They know where the problem is and exactly how it occurred and can figure out how to fix it the quickest.

It seems only management needs someone to blame so it isn’t their fault. Companies need the above honesty to run the place well.

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