Fact Check

Facebook Outage Prompts 911 Calls

Did a brief Facebook outage prompt social media users to call 911?

Published Aug 7, 2014

Claim:   A brief Facebook outage prompted social media users to call 911.


Example:   [Collected via Facebook, August 2014]

Heard on a radio talk show this morning that Facebook was down somewhere
in Cali for about 19 minutes.....people were calling 911. The PD went on
Twitter and told everyone that FB was not a police issue and not to call
anymore. I'm worried about out country; very worried.


Origins:   During the morning of 1 August 2014, service to Facebook was disrupted, rendering the social media network unreachable for some and painfully slow to operate for others. The company responded to the outage by issuing a statement saying "Facebook is currently experiencing an issue that is affecting all API and web surfaces. Our engineers detected the issue quickly and are working to resolve it ASAP. We'll update shortly." Service was restored about 30 minutes later.

However, even that short disruption supposedly proved too much for some Facebook users. Sgt. Burton Brink, the spokesman for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Crescenta Valley Station, tweeted that:

Facebook is not a Law Enforcement issue, please don't call us about it being down, we don't know when FB will be back up!


When challenged about his statement, Sgt. Brink tweeted:

yes, we get calls all the time like this, cable TV, all sorts of things not working, they think we control.


Then he tweeted this about two hours later:

Yes we got calls #facebookdown That is why I sent out my previous msg to prevent them. Unk number received on 911 or reg number TY


Brink's statements have been disputed by Capt. Britta Steinbrenner of the Sheriff’s Information Bureau, who said her office was unaware of any such calls. She also maintained she had not been in contact with Brink, that he was not on duty at the time he tweeted about the calls related to the Facebook outage, and that the department was investigating the situation.

While there exists some question about whether people contacted 911 about this particular Facebook outage,

citizens certainly have placed similar 911 calls about other non-emergency matters. During the summer of 2013, residents of a Connecticut town called 911 when a cable outage interrupted viewing of the popular television show Breaking Bad. In 2005, one irate consumer purportedly called 911 to report that her fast food burger hadn't been prepared to her liking and to demand that the police do something about it. The Los Angeles Police Department estimates that 70% of calls to 911 in the first half of 2014 have been non-emergency calls, including one from a man who called to complain that he hadn't gotten cheese on his hamburger.

Barbara "of which he said he camembert it" Mikkelson

Last updated:   7 August 2014


    Brody, Ben.   "LA Residents Call 911 When Facebook Goes Down."

    CNN Money.   4 August 2014.

    Blankstein, Andrew.

  "911 Calls About Facebook Outage? Maybe Not, L.A. Sheriff's Office Says."
    NBC News.   1 August 2014.

    Los Angeles Times.   "911 Calls About Facebook Outage Angers L.A. County Sheriff's Officials."

    1 August 2014.

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