Facebook Manipulated 700k News Feeds in 2012 For Study

Did you know that in 2012 the folks over at Facebook did a study where they changed the mix of information in the News Feed of almost 690,000 users. Some Facebook subscribers were shown more positive posts, while others were shown more negative posts. The premise of the study was to look at the emotions that users have when shown positive and negative news.  If shown mostly positive news would users also share positive information or would they be depressed by seeing everyone else having so much fun. The study has certainly raised some ethical flags and some are saying that the Facebook went too far and that they shouldn’t be tinkering with human emotions without people knowing about it. To be fair, the study wouldn’t have worked it people knew about it, but does that make it right to conduct?

The Facebook researcher who designed the experiment, Adam D. I. Kramer, said in a post Sunday that he was sorry for the way the study was presented and for the uproar it caused.

“I can tell you that our goal was never to upset anyone,” Kramer wrote. “I can understand why some people have concerns about it, and my coauthors and I are very sorry for the way the paper described the research and any anxiety it caused. In hindsight, the research benefits of the paper may not have justified all of this anxiety.”

He further stated that 1 in 2500 people were included in the study and that nobody’s posts were “hidden,” they just didn’t show up on some loads of the News Feed. So, what did study learn? Does exposure to friends’ negativity lead people to avoid visiting Facebook. The study concluded that people produced an average of one fewer emotional word, per thousand words, over the following week. That is the exact opposite of what Facebook so feared.

 

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  • JackBaker

    By law we all agreed to the Terms & Conditions. Anything that goes up there are no longer ours. So they don’t have to ask for permissions.

    • basroil

      ToS are pretty much not enforceable under any conditions, and federal law supersedes any ToS. Not to mention the ToS at the time didn’t mention experiments and experimental data, so they have NOTHING to back them up.

  • basroil

    “To be fair, the study wouldn’t have worked it people knew about it, but does that make it right to conduct?”

    By law they have to ask for consent, it’s not a matter of if it would work otherwise (and consent would likely have zero impact on the result for a properly conducted experiment)