A researcher is suing Meta for the right to ‘turn off’ Facebook’s news feed

Facebook’s News Feed algorithm has long been at the center of debate about some of Meta’s biggest problems. It has also been an almost constant source of user complaints. But if the newly filed lawsuit is successful, Facebook users could be using the social network with a very different feed. Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University Meta on behalf of a researcher who wants to release a browser extension that will allow people to “effectively turn off” their algorithmic feeds.

The extension was created by Ethan Zuckerman, a researcher and professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He argues that Facebook users would do better if they had more control over their feeds. “Called Unfollow Everything 2.0, the tool would allow users to unfollow their friends, groups and pages, effectively turning off their news feeds — the endless scrolling of posts that users see when they log into Facebook.” claim . “Users who download the tool will be free to use the platform without a feed, or manage the feed by re-following only the friends and groups whose posts they actually want to see.” (Meta has officially renamed the News Feed to “Feed”. .)

Zuckerman is not the first person to come up with such a tool. It was inspired by a similar project called “Refuse to Track Everything” from 2021. Facebook has sued the UK creator of this extension and his account. Zuckerman is trying to avoid a similar fate with his lawsuit. The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in San Francisco federal court, asks the court to “recognize that Section 230 protects the development of tools that allow people to better control their social media experiences.”

The case could be a new test of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, commonly known as the law. online platforms from legal liability for the actions of their users. But unlike the last Supreme Court According to the statute, Zuckerman’s case “is based on a separate provision that protects developers of third-party tools that allow people to correct what they see online, including by blocking content they find objectionable.”

A spokesperson for Meta declined to comment on the lawsuit. The company has a history of heavy-handed tactics when it comes to independent researchers. In addition to shutting down the previous version of Stop Tracking Everything, the company disabled the Facebook accounts of a group of individuals. Trying to learn political ad targeting in 2021. Such tactics have led some researchers to implement “data donation” programs that enlist volunteers to “donate” their search data for academic research.

If released, Zuckerman’s browser extension will also have a data donation component that allows users to opt in to share “anonymized data about their Facebook usage.” The data will then be used for research into the effects of Facebook’s feed algorithm.

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