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: http://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.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 17th, 2012 @ 9:41am

    Your private information is their little multi-billion dollar secret, you dopes.

    Face what?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    icon
    Hephaestus (profile), Jul 17th, 2012 @ 9:47am

    As if this will ever happen ...

    We would like to apologize for the failure of a pipe on our oil platform. It was due to a faulty regulator. This will undoubtedly shorten lives, lead to oil toxicity (aka gulf war syndrome), cause birth defects, and cancer among a large large portion of gulf community.

    For this we apologize,

    BP

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
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    Keii (profile), Jul 17th, 2012 @ 9:51am

    Re: As if this will ever happen ...

    BP didn't release a photo of a dog dressed up for the 4th of July.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Vic, Jul 17th, 2012 @ 9:55am

    Very nice indeed.
    Seeing the dog, city name "San Diego" comes to mind. I wonder if he lives there... 8^)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    John Doe, Jul 17th, 2012 @ 9:55am

    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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 17th, 2012 @ 9:56am

    I ran into a rare bug

    Mmmmhmmm. I'm guessing a 90% probability that in this case "rare bug" is equal to "fat finger syndrome (ffs)". Not that it matters. Good of 'em to fess up.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
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    Glen, Jul 17th, 2012 @ 9:58am

    I bet the PR department is PISSED they couldn't screw up the admission.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 17th, 2012 @ 10:02am

    Re:

    I bet dude gets a pink slip. Not because he messed up the block - that's human, and easily forgivable. He'll be shown the door because he acted outside his little fiefdom and stepped all over the toes of "Corporate Communications".

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
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    Beta (profile), Jul 17th, 2012 @ 10:08am

    interesting...

    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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Jul 17th, 2012 @ 10:08am

    The whole thing is a publicity stunt. In response to this article. ;)

    Itís Official: Social Media Users Happier With Google+ Than With Facebook

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
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    Eric Goldman (profile), Jul 17th, 2012 @ 10:09am

    OK, but Facebook is notorious about overly quick to block legitimate URLs as spammy. http://blog.ericgoldman.org/personal/archives/2010/12/distrust_in_the.html Maybe they need a more systemic fix to their manual spam-blocking procedures.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Jul 17th, 2012 @ 10:10am

    Not just them

    One of the local universities also blocks Imgur as a "personal storage site." (For Guest accounts, at least.)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
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    Dionaea (profile), Jul 17th, 2012 @ 10:18am

    I agree with that last line, some PR-people are exceptionally good at creating PR-disasters...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 17th, 2012 @ 10:23am

    Re: Your private information is their little multi-billion dollar secret, you dopes.

    Face sex

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 17th, 2012 @ 10:25am

    Re: interesting...

    4) people at facebook are allowed to talk to the outside world.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
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    Ninja (profile), Jul 17th, 2012 @ 10:26am

    Re: interesting...

    4) The dog is the PR manager, which explains why they did it right this time.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 17th, 2012 @ 10:26am

    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!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 17th, 2012 @ 10:29am

    Re:

    eh, blocking the occasional legitimate URL is a far better problem to have than letting the occasional illegitimate URL through. I have more problems with putting a bandana on a dog and calling it dressed up, that's not even trying.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
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    Ninja (profile), Jul 17th, 2012 @ 10:31am

    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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
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    Ninja (profile), Jul 17th, 2012 @ 10:33am

    Re:

    And an environmental disaster!

    Disclaimer: I'm an engineer.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
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    Ninja (profile), Jul 17th, 2012 @ 10:37am

    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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 17th, 2012 @ 10:39am

    Re: Re:

    "eh, blocking the occasional legitimate URL is a far better problem to have than letting the occasional illegitimate URL through."

    Careful with what you wish for. That same line of reasoning is what brought us the TSA and the whole "aggressive pat-down" procedure.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
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    GMacGuffin (profile), Jul 17th, 2012 @ 10:42am

    Hey, dude's got a Border Collie. He must be telling the truth.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
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    Gwiz (profile), Jul 17th, 2012 @ 10:43am

    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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
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    Vog (profile), Jul 17th, 2012 @ 10:45am

    Re:

    I'm an engineer, and I approve this message.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    icon
    :Lobo Santo (profile), Jul 17th, 2012 @ 10:50am

    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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 17th, 2012 @ 10:52am

    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....

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
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    :Lobo Santo (profile), Jul 17th, 2012 @ 10:52am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Sorry! This should have been up one!

    Ninja, I agree with your exaggeration for illustrative purposes. Sorry for the placement of my comment, no offense meant.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 17th, 2012 @ 10:53am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Because concern for the uptime and availability of third party applications and services from the standpoint of security is very much like the TSA...oh wait its not.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    identicon
    FBP Developer, Jul 17th, 2012 @ 10:56am

    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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 17th, 2012 @ 11:03am

    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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 17th, 2012 @ 11:11am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: 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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
    icon
    Ben (profile), Jul 17th, 2012 @ 11:17am

    Re: Re: As if this will ever happen ...

    BP didn't release a photo of a dog dressed up for the 4th of July.
    Of course not. They're British. It would have been for the 5th of November with the dog wearing a Guy Fawkes mask or something similar.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 17th, 2012 @ 11:48am

    Re: Facebook is also blocking links to my site for no reason

    Looks like they got this spam block 100% correct, actually.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
    icon
    :Lobo Santo (profile), Jul 17th, 2012 @ 12:02pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Skull and BoneS!

    Usually, a logical argument, if indeed logical, can be taken to extremes and still make sense.

    An illogical position, on the other hand, breaks down when subject to extremes.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward With A Unique Writing Style, Jul 17th, 2012 @ 12:08pm

    Re: Re:

    I work with engineers (I'm the IT department for an engineering company) and I approve of both this message and the one that led to it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
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    Berenerd (profile), Jul 17th, 2012 @ 12:09pm

    Re: Facebook is also blocking links to my site for no reason

    So are you now going to sue FB for saying your spammy?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
    identicon
    Innocent Victim, Jul 17th, 2012 @ 12:11pm

    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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39.  
    icon
    iamtheky (profile), Jul 17th, 2012 @ 12:24pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: 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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40.  
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    iamtheky (profile), Jul 17th, 2012 @ 12:31pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Skull and BoneS!

    and the opposition was all me, i was signed out apparently...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41.  
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    Almost Anonymous (profile), Jul 17th, 2012 @ 1:38pm

    Re: Facebook is also blocking links to my site for no reason

    Eddy was right when he said you can make $100/month by marking FBP links as "spammy" on Facebook.

    /s

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42.  
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    maclypse (profile), Jul 17th, 2012 @ 1:47pm

    ...here is a picture of my dog...

    Bestest apology ever.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  43.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Jul 17th, 2012 @ 1:49pm

    Re: Re:

    blocking the occasional legitimate URL is a far better problem to have than letting the occasional illegitimate URL through.


    I disagree 100%. Getting the occasional illegitimate (whatever that is) URL is far preferable to blocking a legitimate one.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  44.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 17th, 2012 @ 4:59pm

    Haha!
    Ironically, my anti-virus tells me that the link to the guy's picture is unsafe and blocks it by default!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  45.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 17th, 2012 @ 5:17pm

    I hate FB just a tiny smidgeon less today. So now I only hate FB 99.9999...%.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  46.  
    icon
    gab4moi (profile), Jul 17th, 2012 @ 10:44pm

    sooo... has Carreon released a pic of a pitbull from hell?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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