Popular plugin Social Fixer surrenders to Facebook legal menacing

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.

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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

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7 comments
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  • Do not have a Facebook page

    The above actions by Facebook, and many other things they do have caused me to have never and will never setup a Facebook page. Though I am a geeky, nerdy, tekkie person, not having Facebook page, or any other social media page, has not hinder me in any way. Having my own website where I can post how and what I want, a site controlled by me not someone else, is all I need.
    BubbaJones_
    • Techie

      I am a geek somewhat to I used to be on myspace till facebook came around i am stuck there only cause games and so many people on there more then my messenger. They have heard of adblock.. but google and other people are paying adblock to show there ads so they turn there head to it.
      Douglas Reynolds
      • You

        Must be using AdBlock in Chrome. In Firefox and using AdBlock, I see NO ads. None in the news feed and none anywhere else.
        benched42
    • Same here

      I have a Facebook account but my primary meas is my own website with WordPress.
      Richardbz
  • Do not blame him for pulling back as he has a lot to lose..

    When you interfere with someone’s ability to make a dollar they usually hit back and in this case they are one of the big boys in town.
    We bang on about freedom and privacy of the web but slowly over time both are being eroded to meaningless levels. It will be interesting to see where it all ends up in the next decade or so, especially after the last one.
    Maybe you could combine some of your outspokenness and nouse to help him out.
    ahanse
  • If I were a lawyer...

    If I were a lawyer, I'd take this guy's case pro bono.
    alboulley
  • not using facebook is not really a helpful suggestion

    If you by and large enjoy using something but are unhappy about some aspects then stopping using it is giving up rather than seeking to change things. If you dont like TV advertising do you sell your TV? No you buy a PVR record what you want to watch and then skip through the adverts. Attempts to change facebook are rather like this really and you dont see TV companies suing the makers of PVRs.
    If you dont like facebook and you still use it then of course you should examine what you are doing but if you like the idea of facebook but just want to see some things changed then you should campaign against it.
    I guess what is needed is a test case. Facebook is made up of HTML and other source data - a browser interprets the source code and displays it to the user. To my mind what you choose to view facebook on is your choice and I see the Browser v the Modified browser as no different to the TV vs PVR.
    No one is changing any of facebook's code the only thing that is being changed is how the browser interprets that code. In my view the browser manufacturer has more of a claim here but they would not be stupid enough to argue it.
    How is what these plug ins do any different to the software designed to assist disabled users on the web - screen readers, colour changers and text re-organisation tools. Is Facebook going to ban these tools - I don't think so!
    A lot of sites are upset by things like ad removers but that is just something they have to learn to live with - I have seen at least one which detects ad block and makes an appeal to users not to block ads as this is their only income. That is fine but they dont try to ban ad blocker.
    I wish someone like google would build something into the browser themselves because facebook v google would make a very interesting court case!
    cymru999