A developer who created a tool that allows people to stop following friends and groups automatically on Facebook says it has 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 stopping following all their connections at once.
Facebook allows users to stop following individual friends, groups and pages, which removes their content from News Feed, the heart of Facebook controlled by algorithms. Barclay's tool automated that process, instantly deleting users' News Feed.
In response, Facebook sent Barclay a cease and desist letter earlier this year, saying he violated the site's terms of service by creating software that automated user interactions. Barclay says the company then "permanently deactivated my Facebook and Instagram accounts" and "required me to agree to never again create the tools that interact with Facebook to other their services."
Barclay notes that in addition to helping users, his "Stop following everything" tool was being used by researchers at the Swiss University of Neuchâtel to study the effects of News Feed on people's happiness.
Barclay's story came at a less than auspicious time for Facebook. Whistleblower Frances Haugen appeared before Congress this week to testify about Facebook's insatiable demand for growth, which Haugen says often costs the well-being of Leavers. "You're paying for your profits with our safety," she said on an episode of 60 Minutes.
Compared to Haugen's exposure of Facebook, Barclay's story is relatively mundane. After all, Facebook's terms of service are very clear about what kind of tools users can build, and Unfollow Everything obviously violated this agreement.
The episode clearly illustrates Facebook's approach to its user base and how it often wants to give people a sense of control without letting them fully escape its clutches. The company is happy to allow users to stop following people individually, but automating the process would make it too easy to unsubscribe from the News Feed, which is essential to keeping users coming back and lining Facebook's pockets with advertising revenue.