Developer Who Built ‘Unfollow Everything’ Tool Gets Banned From Facebook

By Ashok Ramprasad | October 14, 2021
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Barclay’s tool allowed Facebook users to blank out their News Feed.
Barclay’s tool allowed Facebook users to blank out their News Feed. (Image: Tumisu via Pixabay)

Louis Barclay, a developer, created a tool called “Unfollow Everything” that enabled users to automatically unfollow friends, pages, and groups on Facebook, thereby making their News Feed empty. Facebook has now permanently banned Barclay from the platform.  

The News Feed plays a crucial role in bringing traffic and generating revenue through advertising. Developing tools that allow users to opt-out of the News Feed would have a negative impact on Facebook’s profits.

“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,” Barclay wrote in an article on Slate.

The extension was first released in July 2020 as a free download on the Chrome Web Store. It immediately took off and Barclay received emails and messages from users thanking him as it helped them become less addicted to Facebook.

The extension also attracted interest from researchers at the Swiss University of Neuchatel who wanted to study how Facebook’s News Feed affected users’ mental health and happiness. The study seems to be what triggered Facebook to take action against Barclay and his extension.

In July, Facebook sent Barclay a cease-and-desist letter which stated that he had breached the site’s terms of service by developing a software that automated user interactions. 

Barclay revealed that the social media company permanently deleted his Instagram and Facebook accounts. It also demanded that he never again develop any tools that interact with Facebook or its many other services.

Facebook’s letter took Barclay by surprise considering that Unfollow Everything only had 2,500 weekly active users and 10,000 downloads. 

“It was definitely growing, but it wasn’t huge,” he said. Barclay considered taking legal action. However, he decided against it as he is based in the U.K. and would face enormous costs if he lost against a trillion-dollar company. So, he proceeded to remove the tool.

“Facebook’s behavior isn’t just anti-competitive; it’s anti-consumer… 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,” Barclay wrote in the article.