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OPLIN 4Cast #772: Would You Unfollow Everything?

Posted in 4cast, and Facebook

Facebook had a very bad week last week. Former product manager Frances Haugen was revealed to be the whistleblower behind the Wall Street Journal’s “Facebook Files” investigation, telling senators that Facebook knows about but can’t fix its problems, that regulation is required because “Facebook is stuck in a feedback loop that they can’t get out of.” All of Facebook and its main products—Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp—were inaccessible for more than 5 hours on Monday and again for 2 hours Friday.

But what caught my attention was a small side story about “Unfollow Everything,” a Chrome extension that automates the process of resetting your Facebook newsfeed. When you “unfollow” you don’t “unfriend,” so can selectively re-add the things you want to see in your newsfeed, rather than allow the Facebook algorithms to decide for you.

  • Facebook Banned Me for Life Because I Help People Use It Less [Slate] “If lawmakers and regulators are serious about empowering users to stand up to big tech, they need to address the ways in which platforms stymie user choice, including through terms of service. Platforms shouldn’t be able to wield the threat of lawsuits and account suspensions against researchers and developers who create tools that merely empower users—but as my experience shows, they can and do.”
  • Facebook shouldn’t be in charge of how you use Facebook [Pluralistic] “Users who tried Unfollow Everything really liked it. They found themselves spending less time on Facebook, but enjoying the time they spent there a lot more. Both Barclay and his users felt ‘addicted’ to Facebook and this helped them ‘control the addiction.'”
  • Facebook Permanently Bans ‘Unfollow Everything’ Developer [PCMag] “[Barclay] later collaborated with researchers at the University of Neuchâtel on a study that compared a group that cleared out their News Feed with Unfollow Everything to a control group that didn’t. This appears to be what drew Facebook’s ire.”
  • Facebook bans developer behind Unfollow Everything tool [The Verge] “[Facebook] wants to give people the feeling of control without letting them fully escape its grasp. The company is happy to let users unfollow people individually, but automating the process would make it too easy to opt-out of the News Feed, which is essential for keeping users coming back and lining Facebook’s pockets with advertising revenue. So, of course, tools like Barclay’s — even if they have limited uptake — are forbidden.”

From the Ohio Web Library: