A Developer Banned From Facebook Because He Helped People Use It Less


What makes Facebook so appealing is not due to the amount of contents its users generate. The reason is because of its way of understanding its users.

Everyone can have different taste. And Facebook is one of the best in understanding its users' intention and interest. Through complex algorithms, the social media can determine what content is best for what user, based on their past interactions on its various platforms as well as the web and beyond

As a result, the more Facebook users use Facebook and on places where its algorithms reside, the more Facebook will understand them.

In turn, this will make its News Feed more appealing, which will then increase engagement, and then translate to profit.

Everything is powered by automation, controlled by algorithms with mathematical equations. It's Facebook's trade secret; the very thing that controls its News Feed.

This is why the company doesn't like anything that can tamper with it.

Read: How Facebook's News Feed Ranking System Works, As Explained By Facebook

Louis Barclay, a developer in the UK, is the creator of a Google Chrome browser extension called 'Unfollow Everything'.

The product that was first put on Google Chrome Store in July 2020, allows Facebook users to automatically unfollow all their Facebook friends, groups and Pages.

Unfollow Everything is just an automation tool designed to ease the manual and tedious process of unfollowing people on the social media. But regardless, the tool can affect Facebook users' News Feed that Facebook can no longer show anything there.

"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," he said. "I had the idea for Unfollow Everything a few years ago, when I realized you don’t actually need to have a News Feed. If you unfollow everything—all of your friends, groups, and pages—your News Feed ends up empty."

In short, the tool is designed to let people delete their Facebook News Feeds.

It's simply a tool that allows users to Facebook’s positive features while limiting their exposure to its addictive negative effect of endlessly scrolling down the News Feed.

"I still remember the feeling of unfollowing everything for the first time. It was 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."

Unfollow Everything only had 2,500 weekly active users and 10,000 downloads.

"It was definitely growing, but it wasn't huge," he said.

"Apart from that I just very much saw it as something that improves the Facebook experience for Facebook users," Barclay said, adding that he received "amazing feedback" from users who said that they "were using Facebook in a way that was much healthier for them."

The tool also attracted attention from researchers at the University of Neuchâtel in Switzerland, who wanted to study the impact of having no news feed on people's happiness on Facebook, as well as the amount of time they spent on the platform.

The cease-and-desist letter from Facebook
The cease-and-desist letter from Facebook
The cease-and-desist letter from Facebook
The cease-and-desist letter from Facebook

But when Facebook finally knew about the existence of such tool, the company sent a letter to Barclay, that took him by surprise.

Shown above (redacted), the cease-and-desist letter from Facebook's lawyers was received hours after Barclay realized that he couldn't log in into his Facebook account anymore.

The letter, from the law firm Perkins Coie, told Barclay that Unfollow Everything broke Facebook's rules on automated collection of user content without Facebook's permission and that it infringed Facebook trademarks. The letter also said that Barclay violated Facebook's terms that prohibited anyone from interfering with the "intended operation of Facebook" and encouraging others to break Facebook's rules.

" [...] it demanded that I agree to never again create tools that interact with Facebook or its other services."

Not only that Barclay is banned from Facebook, as he is also barred from using Instagram as well.

"I was really scared, and I was very anxious," Barclay said. "It's really horrible to have been cut off from that for a reason that feels to me very unfair," Barclay.

Barclay said that he sought legal guidance on whether he could challenge the letter but learned that since he's based in the UK he'd be liable for Facebook's legal costs if he lost.

"Facebook is a trillion-dollar company. I couldn't afford that risk," he said.

Nonetheless, Barclay said that he does see benefits in being cut off from Facebook.

"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," he said.