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Facebook takes action against developers

A developer is no longer allowed to write tools that interact with Facebook and has been banned from the platform – for life.

British developer Louis Barclay has developed a tool that should make people less dependent on Facebook. But Facebook sent him a cease and desist statement and banned him from the social network. According to the developer, for life.

Barclay actually liked Facebook. But at some point he realized that he actually didn’t need the newsfeed that greets you when you log into Facebook. “The newsfeed is what ties people to the platform for hours, often every day; without it, the time spent on the network would decrease significantly,” writes Barclay in a blog entry.

At the same time, the newsfeed is the most important source of income for Facebook because it is where most of the ads are viewed and clicked. Barclay deleted the news feed, unfollowing all of his friends and groups. This will keep the groups and friends, but the newsfeed will remain empty.

Browser extension empties newsfeed and serves research

Since unfollowing every single friend and group took hours, he decided to write a tool that would automate the process and benefit other users as well. The Unfollow Everything browser extension was born. Thousands of people used the extensions and wrote comments like “Thanks to you, I’m officially no longer addicted to Facebook!”.

A few months after the publication, scientists from the University of Neuchâtel (Switzerland) expressed an interest in using the tool to investigate the effects of the newsfeed on user satisfaction and time spent on Facebook. One group should use Facebook with newsfeed, another should empty the newsfeed with Unfollow Everything.

Developers are no longer allowed to write tools that interact with Facebook

In the summer, Barclay received post from Facebook. In a cease and desist declaration, the company demanded that Barclay take the tool off the Internet. He was also told that his Facebook account had been permanently deactivated. “An account that I have had for more than 15 years and through which I mainly keep in touch with my family and friends around the world,” writes Barclay.

“With reference to a provision in the terms of use that allegedly also binds former Facebook users, Facebook also demanded that I never again create a tool that interacts in any way with Facebook or its many other services,” explains the developer. These demands not only seemed outrageous to him, but also to the lawyers at Columbia University (USA) and other lawyers from Great Britain.

“I live in the UK, so a lawsuit against Facebook would likely have been brought to a UK court where I would have personally paid for Facebook’s litigation costs if I had lost,” writes Barclay. He couldn’t afford this risk. Therefore, to the chagrin of users and researchers, Unfollow Everything is history.

Barclay is not the only one that Facebook confronts with such a scenario. Last year, for example, Facebook acted similarly against the browser Friendly, which enabled users to switch between social media accounts, the developer writes. The behavior of Facebook is not only anti-competitive, but also anti-consumer.

research project at New York University (NYU) on political advertisements on the social media platform has also been trying to prevent Facebook for some time. The Ad Observatory research project uses a browser extension to collect the advertisements that are displayed to 6,500 volunteers and process them. On August 2, the researchers’ access was blocked, which led to criticism from the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC).