Popular plugin Social Fixer surrenders to Facebook legal menacing

Summary:In a dreadful sign of the times, the man behind Facebook browser plugin Social Fixer has capitulated to legal threats from the social media giant, who demanded he remove its key features.

One man made an awesome browser plugin called Social Fixer, which allowed users to create exactly the Facebook experience they wanted.

Facebook didn't like it so removed his Facebook page under dubious circumstances — and has now menaced him with legal issues unless he guts Social Fixer's functionality.

Social Fixer announced yesterday it is giving in to Facebook's threat of legal recourse and will remove the main functions which made the tool useful.

social fixer facebook threats

Since Social Fixer is a one-man operation, Matt Kruse at first tried to talk to Facebook — but when the litigious, resource-rich social media behemoth threatened the developer, he had little choice than to do exactly as they dictated.

People used Social Fixer to show the friends that Facebook often hides, to perform functions like signing out of chat upon log-in, to control font size, to filter Facebook's sponsored posts and ads out of their friend feeds; Social Fixer let users filter their news feed so games and apps show up in separate tabs, and to not show content based on keywords.

Last week, Buzzfeed estimated that Social Fixer has between 500,000 and one million users.

Three weeks ago, Facebook first took away the means of communication Social Fixer had with its direct fans and users: its Facebook page.

Facebook told Social Fixer's developer Kruse that he had been reported for spam.

He made a lot of noise with a blog post, which got him a Buzzfeed article and then contact with a human at Facebook.

He was then told that the spam report was not, in fact, true.

Facebook finally told Kruse that an unnamed individual user had reported the Social Fixer page for violation of their Terms of Service and Platform Policies. (Specifically, Section 3.11 of its Rights and Responsibilities, applying to disabling Facebook and denial-of-service attacks, and section 1.3 of its Platform Policies which applies to Facebook developers; Kruse is not a Facebook developer)

Understanding that Social Fixer is a browser plugin that performs the same functions as AdBlock and F.B. Purity, Kruse asked Facebook what its stance was with plugins such as these.

Facebook's representative demurred, saying they had not heard of AdBlock (AdBlock currently has 234,000 Facebook Page "likes" — Social Fixer's now-deleted Facebook Page had 338,000 "likes").

I was told by the person at Facebook that she was not aware of [AdBlock], but would check into them.

Facebook did not acknowledge F.B. Purity (it is at this time being threatened with legal action from Facebook and has been previously harassed by Facebook with both Page and post deletions).

On Saturday, Kruse published Facebook's Social Fixer ultimatum, as told to him:

1) In order to comply with their terms and get the Page re-published, I must remove the following functionality from Social Fixer:

•    Friend Tracker
•    News Feed Tabs
•    News Feed Filters
•    Blocking of ads, sponsored stories, etc.

He added:

Of course I asked what would happen if I chose not to make the changes they are requesting.

I was told that the case would be sent over the legal department [...]

It's a case that a single developer couldn't even afford to win.

Welcome to the new way of doing business: bully and bluff the little guy when his popular model doesn't serve your advertisers — even if it enables customers to use your product more than they would otherwise — and continue until you scare him into complicity.

Actually, it's a rather old way of doing business.

But it's a tactic I prefer to see in my gangster movies. Not in my social networks.

Especially not ones who pretend to make decisions based on positive user experiences while twisting its own rules to strongarm indie devs — and whose actions reflect an industry-pervasive, astonishing above-the-law contempt for its users.

And if you really look closely right now, if user contempt isn't driving "big box" social right now, then it's surely riding shotgun.

Topics: Social Enterprise, Browser, Web development

About

Ms. Violet Blue (tinynibbles.com, @violetblue) is a freelance investigative reporter on hacking and cybercrime at Zero Day/ZDNet, CNET and CBS News, as well as a noted sex columnist. She has made regular appearances on CNN and The Oprah Winfrey Show and is regularly interviewed, quoted, and featured in a variety of publications that inclu... Full Bio

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