Professor Sues Meta to Launch Feed-Control Tool for Facebook

University Professor Challenges Meta with Innovative Facebook Tool

Professor Ethan Zuckerman is taking on Meta, the Facebook parent company, with an inventive approach aimed at revolutionizing social media interaction. He has developed a privacy-friendly browser extension known as ‘Unfollow Everything 2.0′, designed to put control back into the users’ hands by allowing them to switch their newsfeed on and off at will.

The Quest for User-Controlled Social Media

Zuckerman’s tool is almost ready for release, yet he has concerns that Meta might hit back with legal action. In 2021, Meta sent a cease-and-desist letter to Louis Barclay, the developer of the original Unfollow Everything, resulting in the shutdown of his tool. Consequently, Zuckerman is taking a proactive approach by suing Meta first.

By suing Meta, Zuckerman aims to invalidate Meta’s past arguments against developers, such as Barclay, and ensure that Meta has no grounds to sue if he proceeds with the release of his tool. For instance, Zuckerman is advocating that Section 230 of the law, which typically shields Big Tech, should also protect third-party developers from social media giants.

Reimagining Social Media with Unfollow Everything 2.0

Unfollow Everything 2.0, according to Zuckerman, falls within the “safe harbor” provision of the law. The purpose of the tool is to allow users who find the newsfeed objectionable to effectively turn off the feed. Moreover, this tool enables users to curate their online experiences and avoid objectionable content.

Ramya Krishnan, a senior staff attorney at the Knight Institute who helped draft Zuckerman’s complaint, argues that some Facebook users are dissatisfied with the newsfeed’s tendency to prioritize inflammatory speech. By turning off the feed, users can reclaim the platform’s original design, manually choosing the content they want to see.

Zuckerman, a regular Facebook user who has personally benefited from the platform, believes that the company’s business model is not inevitable. While he isn’t part of the ‘burn it all down’ camp, he has observed social media platforms evolve to give users less control over their feeds.

As we continue to navigate the digital age, Zuckerman’s battle with Meta poses intriguing questions about user control and the future of social media engagement. It serves as a reminder that while technology’s rapid advancement can often feel overwhelming, it also presents limitless opportunities for innovation and change.