Facebook has permanently banned the developer Louis Barclay for creating a browser extension called ‘Unfollow Everything’. The tool, which no longer exists, should make people less dependent on Facebook by eliminating the News Feed feature.
Because of this tool, Facebook sent him a cease and desist statement and banned him from the social network. According to the developer, for life.
Barclay actually liked Facebook. But at some point, he realized that he actually didn’t need the News Feed that greets you when you log into Facebook. “The News Feed is the thing that keeps people glued to the platform for hours on end, often on a daily basis; without it, time spent on the network would drop considerably.” — writes Barclay in a blog entry.
At the same time, the newsfeed is the most important source of income for Facebook because it is where most of the ads are viewed and clicked.
In order to spend less time on Facebook, Barclay developed the browser extension Unfollow Everything and published it in the Chrome Store in July 2020. Unfollow Everything let users automatically unfollow all their friends, groups and pages on Facebook, leaving their News Feed blank.
Thousands of people used the extensions and wrote comments like “Thanks to you, I’m officially no longer addicted to Facebook!“. A few months after the publication, scientists from the University of Neuchâtel (Switzerland) expressed an interest in using the tool to investigate the effects of the newsfeed on user satisfaction and time spent on Facebook.
In the summer, Barclay received a letter from Facebook. In a cease and desist declaration, the company demanded that Barclay take the tool off the internet. He was also told that his Facebook account had been permanently deactivated. “An account that I’d had for more than 15 years, and that was my primary way of staying in touch with family and friends around the world.” — writes Barclay.
“Pointing to a provision in its terms of service that purports to bind even former users of Facebook, Facebook also demanded that I never again create a tool that interacts with Facebook or its many other services in any way.” — explains the developer. These demands not only seemed outrageous to him but also to the lawyers at Columbia University (USA) and other lawyers from Great Britain.
“I’m a U.K. resident, so a lawsuit against Facebook would probably have played out in a U.K. court, where I would have been personally on the hook for Facebook’s litigation costs if I lost. Facebook is a trillion-dollar company. I couldn’t afford that risk, so Unfollow Everything no longer exists.” — writes Barclay.
The developer writes, the behavior of Facebook is not only anti-competitive but also anti-consumer.
Barclay is not the only one that Facebook confronts with such a scenario. Last year, Facebook acted similarly against the browser Friendly, which enabled users to switch between social media accounts.