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Facebook is terrified that you’ll learn this News Feed secret

Published Oct 8th, 2021 12:58PM EDT
Facebook News Feed
Image: Facebook

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Facebook is in hot water yet again, having to defend itself against allegations from a whistleblower. Frances Haugen shared damning evidence with The Wall Street Journal and 60 Minutes that shows Facebook takes advantage of harmful content on Facebook and Instagram to keep people in the apps. The more you scroll through your Facebook News Feed and your Instagram feed, the more money Facebook makes. Haugen testified before Congress earlier this week, prompting the first response from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Unsurprisingly, he labeled the allegations as false, saying that Facebook isn’t doing any of the bad things Haugen exposed.

While you wait for some sort of clarity, there’s something you can do to fix your Facebook experience. It turns out there’s something that can help you reduce the time you spend scrolling through the News Feed. And Facebook is terrified of it.

The News Feed is addictive

Haugen explained in her interviews that the algorithm changes Facebook made a few years ago emphasizes user engagement. That way, people see stories in the News Feed they’d want to interact with. But Haugen said that Facebook realized that harmful, polarizing content generated more engagement. A safer algorithm would lead to people spending less time on the site and ad revenue would plummet as a result.

The News Feed is also where Facebook ads show up, in-between the various posts from friends and pages.

If Haugen’s revelations are accurate, then there’s a way to fix the algorithm yourself right now. You won’t have to wait for Facebook to make the News Feed safer or for governments to force the social network to comply with new rules.

It turns out there is a way to “turn off” the News Feed, which is something that obviously terrifies Facebook. Sadly, you have to do it all manually, since Facebook swiftly cracked down on a Chrome extension that did it all for you.

Louis Barclay’s Unfollow Everything tool automated the entire process, allowing users to unfollow their friends and pages. Just like that, the tool cleared the News Feed, helping people spend less time inside the app. If you unfollow everyone, the algorithm has nothing to feed on. It won’t know what to serve you. Then, you can start from scratch and only follow important people. Your News Feed experience will improve dramatically as a result.

Facebook responded fiercely

Barclay explained in a post on Slate that unfollowing people isn’t like unfriending. You remain friends with people. You just won’t follow their posts and have them all dumped into your News Feed. Then, you’ll be able to follow only the people you want.

“By unfollowing everything, you eliminate your News Feed,” the developer said.

“I still remember the feeling of unfollowing everything for the first time,” he said. “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.”

“Killing” the News Feed was something Facebook didn’t like. The company came after Barclay just as his Unfollow Everything tool was getting popular. Facebook disabled his Facebook and Instagram accounts permanently and threatened legal action against him. Barclay ultimately removed the Chrome extension.

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

To read the entire story, head over to this link. To clean your Facebook News Feed, just unfollow everyone manually, page by page. The Chrome tool might not exist, but you can still do everything yourself. Trust us, you’ll be much happier (and healthier) once you do it.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.