Facebook bans developer of Unfollow Everything tool
A developer who created a tool that lets people automatically unfollow friends and groups on Facebook says they have been permanently banned from the social networking site.
Louis Barclay was the creator of “Unfollow Everything,” a browser extension that allowed Facebook users to essentially delete their News Feed by unfollowing all of their connections at once. Facebook allows users to unfollow friends, groups, and pages individually, removing their content from the News Feed, the algorithm-controlled heart of Facebook. Barkley’s tool automated the process, quickly wiping out users’ news feeds.
As Barclay wrote about his experience using the tool in a recent article slate:
I still remember the feeling of unfollowing everything for the first time. It was almost miraculous. I didn’t lose anything, as I could still see my favorite friends and groups by going directly to them. But I had acquired a staggering amount of control. I was no longer tempted to scroll down an infinite feed of content. The amount of time I spent on Facebook decreased dramatically. Overnight, my Facebook addiction became manageable.
In response, Facebook sent a cease-and-desist letter to Barkley earlier this year, saying it violated the site’s terms of service by creating software with automated user interactions. Barkley says the company then “permanently disabled my Facebook and Instagram accounts” and “demanded that I agree never again to create tools that interact with Facebook or its other services.” ” Barkley noted that in addition to helping users, their “Unfollow Everything” tool was being used by researchers at the Swiss University of Neuchatel to study the effects of News Feeds on people’s happiness. He says he couldn’t afford to get entangled in court with a trillion-dollar company like Facebook and therefore removed the tool.
Barkley’s story comes at an inauspicious time for Facebook (though when is it? Good Time for the perpetually embroiled firm?) Whistleblower Frances Haugen appeared before Congress this week to testify about Facebook’s insatiable demand for growth, which Haugen says often comes at the expense of users’ well-being. “It’s paying its profits with our security,” she said in an episode 60 minutes. Documents leaked by Haugen include internal research conducted by Facebook that shows how Instagram use exacerbates body issues and mental health problems for some teens. Facebook’s primary response to Haugen’s testimony has been to defame him.
Compared to Haugen’s Facebook performance, Barkley’s story is relatively run-of-the-mill. After all, Facebook’s terms of service are pretty clear on what types of devices users can build, and Unfollow Everything clearly violates this agreement.
But the episode still neatly illustrates Facebook’s approach to its user-base, and it often seeks to give people a sense of control, without letting them escape its grip entirely. The company is happy to allow users to unfollow people individually, but automating the process would make it a lot easier to opt-out of News Feed, which keeps users coming back and filling Facebook’s pockets with ad revenue. essential for. So, of course, devices like Barclays – even if they have limited uptake – are prohibited.
We’ve contacted Facebook about this story and will update if we hear back.
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