In 2012, Facebook manipulated the news feeds of 689,000 users because they care about us they claim. In a study conducted by researcher Adam Kramer, Facebook altered 689,003 different users in which they only showed emotionally-positive posts of their contacts on one group and negative ones on the other.
About 800,000 sign on to Facebook each day.
They didn’t want to upset anyone, Kramer said after a major hullabaloo over the weekend when Facebook admitted to the study.
Unsurprisingly, they discovered that positive feeds elicited positive responses and negative feeds evoked negative emotions.
They conducted the study with the intention of manipulating emotions. They were studying the spreading of emotional states via emotional contagion or group mentality.
That’s fairly Owellian and creepy.
The study itself allegedly received approval by the Institutional Review Boards at the researchers’ universities. It was given on the basis that “Facebook apparently manipulates people’s News Feeds all of the time”.
Facebook’s policies allow for this intrusion on privacy without permission but it’s not very ethical.
The Federal Guidelines have what is called the Common Rule which requires informed consent for human behavioral research and manipulation.
The research they conducted is of poor quality and Kramer claims he wouldn’t do it again but of course it will be done again.
Expect social media to be willing participants in any grand experiment to examine and manipulate us at will.