Last summer, Facebook forced a developer of an automatic unfollowing tool, Unfollow Everything, to stop using that tool. The Chrome extension let users automatically unfollow all Facebook friends “to make Facebook less addictive.”
The Unfollow Everything extension unfollowed all friends, groups, and page of a Facebook user. The user was still friends with these friends and groups via the platform, but no longer automatically saw all posts on the News Feed.
On Slate, the developer says that this will make the social medium “less addictive” and give users more control over their News Feed. “You can unfollow manually, but if you have a thousand connections, you won’t do that quickly.” According to the developer, the tool was also used by a Swiss university to research how long users are on the platform.
However, on July 1, developer Louis Barclay received a cease and desist letter from Facebook. The extension is said to facilitate “unauthorized Facebook functionalities”, with the platform aiming to automate actions “such as mass unfollowing friends, pages and groups”. In addition, the extension made unlawful use of Facebook’s trademarks.
In addition to the letter, Barclay’s Facebook account has also been permanently blocked and he is not allowed to create a new account on Facebook or other Facebook services. Barclay says he finds the letter ‘disgraceful’, but does not want to start the legal battle. “If I lose, I’d have to pay Facebook’s legal fees, something I don’t have the money for.”
The developer says it is looking at other ways Facebook users can use the platform less. In addition, he calls on legislators to look at how platforms limit freedom of choice, ‘including via the user conditions’.
Barclay’s Slate message follows after whistleblower Frances Haugen made himself known earlier this week. She argues that Facebook earns more if users consume more content and stay longer on the platform. This is probably also the reason why Barclay had to stop with its tool, because according to Barclay the tool ensured that users stayed on the platform less long.