Researcher Files Lawsuit Against Meta for Right to “Turn Off” Facebook News Feed

Facebook News Feed

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For a long time, the Facebook news feed algorithm has been a focal point of discussions around some of Meta’s biggest issues. It has also been a quasi-constant source of user complaints.

However, if a recent lawsuit succeeds, Facebook users may be able to use the social network with an entirely different news feed.

The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University has filed a lawsuit against Meta on behalf of a researcher seeking to release a browser extension allowing people to “turn off” their algorithmic news feeds effectively.

The extension, created by Ethan Zuckerman, a researcher and professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, argues that Facebook users would be better off if they had more control over their feeds.

Facebook News Feed

The lawsuit explains that the tool, called Unfollow Everything 2.0, would allow users to unfollow their friends, groups, and pages, thereby effectively turning off their news feeds.

Users who download the tool would have the freedom to use the base system without the feed or curate the feed by only following friends and groups they truly want to see posts from.

Zuckerman isn’t the first to come up with such a tool. He drew inspiration from a similar project, also called “Unfollow Everything,” dating back to 2021.

Facebook sued the British man who created this extension and permanently disabled his account. Zuckerman is trying to avoid a similar fate through his lawsuit.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in San Francisco on Wednesday, asks the court “to recognize that Section 230 protects the development of tools designed to enable people to better control their experiences on social media platforms.”

This case could serve as a new test for Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which is mostly known as the law that shields online platforms from legal liability for the actions of their users.

But unlike recent Supreme Court cases involving the law, Zuckerman’s case “relies on a separate provision protecting third-party tool developers that allow people to curate what they see online, including by blocking content they find undesirable.”

A Meta spokesperson declined to comment on the lawsuit.

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