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  • Kyle Chua

Facebook Bans Developer for Creating a Tool That Lets You Clear Out Your News Feed

A developer said he was booted off of Facebook and threatened with legal action after he created a tool that allows you to clear out your News Feed.

Credit: Dado Ruvic via Reuters

Louis Barclay, a developer from the United Kingdom who wrote about his experience on Slate, said that he created a Chrome extension called Unfollow Everything. The extension gives you the ability to bulk unfollow friends and pages, which would empty your News Feed.

Barclay noted that unfollowing isn’t the same as unfriending. When you unfollow a friend or a group, you can still connect with them and look up their profiles if you want. But by unfollowing, you clear out your News Feed, leaving you free to choose whose posts you want to see and follow again.

“I still remember the feeling of unfollowing everything for the first time. It was near-miraculous,” wrote Barclay. “I had lost nothing since I could still see my favourite 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.”

Barclay added that when he unfollowed all his friends the first time, he did it manually. He knew people wouldn’t want to go through the same trouble, so he created Unfollow Everything, which he published in the Chrome Store in July of last year. It was available to download for free.

“Unfollow Everything started taking off. People loved it. Thousands of people got rid of their News Feed using it. I received emails from people telling me that using the tool had changed their lives,” he wrote.

Credit: Reuters

However, in July of this year, Barclay received a cease-and-desist letter from Facebook demanding that he take down the tool. His Facebook account was also permanently disabled, an account which he said he used for connecting with friends and family.

The letter, which Insider verified, reportedly said that the tool broke Facebook's rules on automated collection of user content without Facebook's permission and infringed Facebook trademarks. Additionally, it said Facebook’s terms prohibit any interference with the intended operation of the platform. It also bans Barclay from using Facebook and Instagram.

"I was really scared, and I was very anxious," Barclay told Insider. "It was definitely growing, but it wasn't huge.” Unfollow Everything had 2,500 weekly active users and 10,000 downloads, according to Barclay.

He also said that he tried to seek legal guidance on whether he could challenge the letter, but learned that he couldn’t afford the legal costs if he lost.

Despite the situation, Barclay said the silver lining to getting cut off from Facebook is that he can now take his addiction levels to the platform to a flat zero.

Barclay’s Slate article comes in the wake of whistleblower Frances Haugen’s testimony in front of the U.S. Congress about how Facebook is misleading the public on progress against hate speech and violence. Haugen claims Facebook’s own internal research shows how it is amplifying hate, misinformation and political unrest for its own gain.

Facebook denied the allegations, with CEO Mark Zuckerberg saying that Haugen’s claims didn’t make sense.


Written by Kyle Chua


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