This week Facebook managed to unite and then divide society over a period of 24 hours. On Monday evening Facebook and its associated platforms — WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger — ceased to function for about six hours and plunged billions of users into a social media blackout that caused consternation across the globe.

The outage left the 3.5-billion users of Facebook unable to send messages and undertake the type of interactions that have become part of life since Facebook emerged from a Harvard dorm room in 2004, and prompted user outrage across the world...

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