Facebook Permanently Bans Developer Who Created App Allowing Users To Delete Their News Feed
An app that allows users to delete their Facebook news feed has seen its developer permanently banned from the platform.
Louis Barclay designed a browser extension, called ‘Unfollow Everything’, that allowed Facebook users to unfollow all pages and friends they followed on the social media site. The result was an empty news feed, made in the hope of preventing endless scrolling and a ‘healthier’ relationship with the app.
Despite emptying users’ news feeds, people would still be able to connect with family and friends on Facebook by using the extension, Barclay told Insider.
In July 2020, Barclay published his extension on the Google Chrome store. It gained attention from researchers in Switzerland, from the University of Neuchâtel, intrigued by how people’s mental wellbeing would be impacted by the lack of a news feed. The researchers wanted to see how people’s usage and time spent on the platform was influenced by the wiping of content, and the resulting impact on people’s happiness.
When he first unfollowed everyone for the first time, in an article posted on Slate, Barclay said it felt ‘near-miraculous’.
I had lost nothing, since I could still see my favorite friends and groups by going to them directly. But I had gained a staggering amount of control. I was no longer tempted to scroll down an infinite feed of content. The time I spent on Facebook decreased dramatically. Overnight, my Facebook addiction became manageable.
However, in July 2021, Barclay tried to access his Facebook account and found it disabled. Five hours later, he reportedly received a cease-and-desist letter from Facebook’s lawyers, part of which he posted online.
According to the letter, Facebook’s rules on automated collection of user content had been broken by Unfollow Everything, as it did not have the company’s permission and subsequently breached its trademarks.
Upon receiving the letter from the social media giant, Barclay said he was ‘really scared’ and ‘very anxious’. Furthermore, due to his development not being widespread or ‘huge’, with just 2,500 weekly active users and 10,000 downloads, the letter came as a surprise to Barclay.
‘Apart from that I just very much saw it as something that improves the Facebook experience for Facebook users,’ he said. According to Barclay, he received ‘amazing feedback’ for his extension, with people commenting on how it had benefited the way they used Facebook to be ‘healthier’.
Being based in the UK, Barclay decided not to challenge the letter as he couldn’t ‘afford [the] risk’ of going up against ‘a trillion-dollar company’.
Barclay had been a Facebook user for 15 years prior to being banned, which he viewed a ‘really horrible’ and ‘unfair’.
He told Insider:
I’ve been trying to reduce my usage of Facebook for years now, including by making tools like Unfollow Everything. So I’m actually pretty grateful to Facebook that they’ve helped me take my addiction levels down to a flat zero.
Barclay concluded that he is ‘still searching for other ways to help people use Facebook less’ and called the company ‘anti-consumer’, rather than ‘anti-competitive’.
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