Facebook has banned a browser extension that allowed users to unfollow all friends, groups and pages, essentially leaving them with an empty newsfeed.
The extension Unfollow Everything, first released in July 2020 as a free download, has been permanently blocked from the social media site, along with the extension’s developer Louis Barclay.
Barclay revealed he had both his Facebook and Instagram accounts blocked, in a Slate blog post titled “Facebook banned me for life because I help people use it less” earlier this month, revealing that the company sent him a cease-and-desist letter threatening legal action.
“Unfollow Everything started taking off. People loved it. Thousands of people got rid of their News Feed using it. Reviews included comments like ‘I am officially not addicted to Facebook thanks to you!’ I received emails from people telling me that using the tool had changed their lives,” Barclay said.
"This summer, Facebook sent me a cease-and-desist letter threatening legal action. It permanently disabled my Facebook and Instagram accounts. And it demanded that I agree to never again create tools that interact with Facebook or its other services."
After the app’s release, Barclay collaborated with researchers at the University of Neuchatel on a study that compared the amount of time people spent on Facebook, using a control group and a group that used Unfollow Everything to clear their newsfeeds.
That study appears to be the trigger for Facebook banning the extension and Barclay.
But this wouldn’t be the first time Facebook has made such a move. Previously, Facebook banned a group of researchers from New York University, stating it had done so to protect the privacy of its users.
That study also used a third party extension to assess how participants, who all agreed to share their data with researchers, used Facebook.
“Facebook’s behaviour isn’t just anti-competitive; it’s anti-consumer,” Barclay wrote. “We are being locked into platforms by virtue of their undeniable usefulness, and then prevented from making legitimate choices over how we use them – not just through the squashing of tools like Unfollow Everything, but through the highly manipulative designs and features platforms adopt in the first place. The loser here is the user, and the cost is counted in billions of wasted hours spent on Facebook.”
Facebook is yet to comment on the removal of the Unfollow Everything extension.