Facebook bans developer behind Unfollow Everything tool

Developer who created a tool that allowed people to unfollow friends and groups on Facebook has been permanently banned from the social networking site.
Louis Barclay is the inventor of Unfollow Everything. This browser extension allows users to delete their News Feed and unfollow all their connections at once. Facebook allows users to individually unfollow friends, groups, and pages, which removes their content from the News Feed, the algorithmically-controlled heart of Facebook. This process was automated by Barclays, which instantly wiped users' News Feed.

Barclay shared his experiences with the tool in a recent article published by Slate.

It was a moment I will never forget. It was almost miraculous. It was almost like I hadn't lost anything, as I could still visit my favourite friends and groups by simply going to them. However, I was able to exercise a remarkable amount of control. I no longer felt the temptation to scroll through an endless stream of content. My time spent on Facebook dropped dramatically. My Facebook addiction was manageable within a matter of hours.

Facebook wrote a cease and desist letter to Barclay earlier this year. It stated that he had violated their terms of service by creating software which automated user interactions. Barclay claims that the company permanently disabled my Facebook account and Instagram account and demanded that he agree not to create any tools that interact with Facebook. He said he could not risk getting into trouble with a billion-dollar company like Facebook so he removed the tool.

Barclays story has emerged at an inauspicious time for Facebook (though when is it a good time for the perpetually-embattled firm?). Frances Haugen, a whistleblower, testified before Congress about Facebook's insatiable desire for growth. Haugen claims that this is too often at the expense of users well-being. She said that it is paying for its profits by sacrificing our safety in an episode of 60 Minutes. Haugen leaked documents that include Facebook internal research showing how Instagram can exacerbate body problems and mental health problems in teens. Facebook's initial response to Haugens testimony was to denigrate her.

Barclays' story is not as dramatic as Haugens expose of Facebook. Unfollow Everything clearly violated Facebook's terms of service, which are quite clear about the tools that users can create.

The episode shows Facebook's attitude to its users and how it wants to give them control but not let them completely escape its grip. Although the company will allow users to unfollow individuals, automating the process would make the process too simple. This is vital for Facebook's ability to keep users coming back and to generate advertising revenue. Tools like Barclays are prohibited, even though they may have limited use.

We have reached out to Facebook regarding this story, and will update you if we receive a response.