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September 3rd, 2013

Social Fixer’s Facebook Page Removed

Beginning yesterday, users of Social Fixer have been greeted by an announcement when they log onto Facebook, informing them that the popular browser extension’s Facebook page has been removed without warning.

Social Fixer, a plugin that works with most browsers, allows users to change how their Facebook newsfeed and other pages are displayed and how they operate. Although very popular, the extension has always been a thorn in Facebook’s side. It’s not surprising that Zuckerberg and his minions would now find even less to like about the plugin, since Wall Street has been prodding them to get serious about monetizing the massive amount of traffic that flows through the social network.

Social Fixer's Facebook graphic

The graphic that accompanied Social Fixer’s announcement

This is actually a pretty useful plugin with many features that people who spend time on Facebook find useful. Among its features are the ability to place wall posts into tabbed folders by content type, the ability to highlight new comments, hide posts and to enlarge thumbnails simply with a hover of the cursor. Those who manage commercial pages on the social network can also arrange their pages in a way that makes them easier to manage. These changes are all made within the browser, so none of these changes affect how others will see a user’s page.

It’s the ability to automatically hide posts on a news feed that probably most has the powers that be at Facebook in a snit. A savvy user could probably use this feature to block or hide “suggested posts” in a newsfeed, which basically are just paid advertisements for commercial Facebook pages. Some users find these posts to be an intrusion, since they are advertising that can’t be easily ignored because they appear mixed inside the content stream.

The announcement of the removal of Social Fixer’s Facebook page included a graphic image from the Peanuts comic strip of Lucy pulling the ball away from Charlie Brown, with a link to the plugin’s website for a more detailed explanation. According to Matt Kruse, the plugin’s sole developer, Facebook removed the page apparently because they thought it contained spam.

“Luckily, the removal of the Page does not impact the functionality of the Social Fixer app at all. It will continue to function as normal in all ways. What it does affect is my ability to communicate with the hundreds of thousands of people who use my app, notify you of updates or problems, etc.”

Mr. Kruse explains that when Facebook removes a page, no way is offered for owners to offer feedback or to otherwise plead their case. Facebook does offer a button to click to request an appeal however.

“I have heard stories from other people whose Pages have been removed without warning, never to be returned. Unfortunately, when we use Facebook as the basis for running a group or business or even a free browser extension, we are at their mercy, and we have no way of knowing for sure what the rules are or how they enforce them.”

Mr. Krause offers the Social Fixer browser extension for free and attempts to cover his expenses through small donations.

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Christine Hall has been a journalist since 1971. In 2001, she began writing a weekly consumer computer column and started covering Linux and FOSS in 2002 after making the switch to GNU/Linux. Follow her on Twitter: @BrideOfLinux

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