“Facebook treats you like a lab rat”
“Internet outraged by Facebook’s ‘creepy’ mood experiment”
“Facebook experiments had few limits”
These are the various headlines that have been popping up throughout the internet as people are realizing how one of the largest and most used social media platforms in existence had psychologically manipulated them without their consent.
In 2012, you could have been browsing your various social media networks and scrolling down your news feeds thinking it was like any other day on social media but unknowingly been a participant in an emotional experiment conducted by Facebook, Inc. (FB).
The experiment was administrated under Facebook’s very own Data Science team which comprises of roughly 36 researchers with special privileges to reach over 1.3 billion people who are active users on Facebook.
The experiment incorporated and utilized an algorithm in order to derive which particular posts from a pool of 1,500 ones would show up in a user’s news feed. This algorithm is consistently modified in order to change up the advertisements, personal updates, and news that are showcased for users.
The team performed an experiment for the duration of a week in 2012 where nearly 700,000 Facebook users’ content were manipulated in order to stimulate an emotional response. While some users were intentionally exposed to a larger amount of positive posts, other users were surrounded by more negative posts.
The study successfully demonstrated that users respond to the type of content they are surrounded by as the people who were viewing negative posts more commonly became more inclined to produce negative posts themselves. And vice versa, the users who were constantly reading positive updates began to write more positive posts.
This study was a huge success for Facebook, proving the capability for the social media site to alter the emotional state of its users. Noted for its researchers from Cornell University and the University of California, San Francisco, the findings from this experiment were published in the National Academy of Science’s academic journal Proceedings.
The Public Response
After the discovery of unwarranted participation, the public has responded in an outrage, exclaiming that it is an extremely hazardous social experiment. However, Facebook’s terms of service does validate the company in its power to host research of this sort.
Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg says that this outrage over the company’s study was a giant misunderstanding. Apologetic for the lack of transparency, Sandberg does not apologize for the research and experiment itself.
In response to the outcry, Adam Kramer, the Facebook researcher who constructed and designed the psychology experiment, stated that the research was in an effort to improve Facebook’s service and not to upset users.
Susan Fiske, the Princeton professor who had edited the research in this experiment, had stated “I was concerned until I queried the authors and they said their local institutional review board had approved it — and apparently on the grounds that Facebook apparently manipulates people’s News Feeds all the time… I understand why people have concerns. I think their beef is with Facebook, really, not the research.”
How do you feel about Facebook maneuvering your news feed to observe how you react emotionally? Could this have resulted in an extremely dangerous way? Let me know what your perspective is in the comments below and be sure to check out our recent post on which mobile devices are the best to be trading stocks with!