Science & technology
Facebook manipulated users emotions in secret study
Publish Date: Jun 29, 2014
Facebook manipulated users emotions in secret study
For one week in 2012 Facebook tampered with the algorithm used to place posts into user news feeds to study how this affected their mood.
  • mail
  • img
newvision

A study detailing how Facebook secretly manipulated the news feed of some 700,000 users to study "emotional contagion" has prompted anger on social media.

For one week in 2012 Facebook tampered with the algorithm used to place posts into user news feeds to study how this affected their mood.

The study, conducted by researchers affiliated with Facebook, Cornell University, and the University of California at San Francisco, appeared in the June 17 edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The researchers wanted to see if the number of positive, or negative, words in messages they read affected whether users then posted positive or negative content in their status updates.

Indeed, after the exposure the manipulated users began to use negative or positive words in their updates depending on what they were exposed to.

Results of the study spread when the online magazine Slate and The Atlantic website wrote about it on Saturday.

"Emotional states can be transferred to others via emotional contagion, leading people to experience the same emotions without their awareness," the study authors wrote.

"These results indicate that emotions expressed by others on Facebook influence our own emotions, constituting experimental evidence for massive-scale contagion via social networks."

While other studies have used metadata to study trends, this appears to be unique because it manipulates the data to see if there is a reaction.

The study was legal according to Facebook's rules -- but was it ethical?

"#Facebook MANIPULATED USER FEEDS FOR MASSIVE PSYCH EXPERIMENT... Yeah, time to close FB acct!" read one Twitter posting.

Other tweets used words like "super disturbing," "creepy" and "evil," as well as angry expletives, to describe the experiment.

Susan Fiske, a Princeton University professor who edited the report for publication, told The Atlantic that she was concerned about the research and contacted the authors.

They in turn said that their institutional review boards approved the research "on the grounds that Facebook apparently manipulates people's News Feeds all the time".

Fiske admitted to being "a little creeped out" by the study.

Facebook told The Atlantic that they "carefully consider" their research, and have "a strong internal review process".

Facebook, the world's biggest social network, says it has more than one billion active users.

AFP

The statements, comments, or opinions expressed through the use of New Vision Online are those of their respective authors, who are solely responsible for them, and do not necessarily represent the views held by the staff and management of New Vision Online.

New Vision Online reserves the right to moderate, publish or delete a post without warning or consultation with the author.Find out why we moderate comments. For any questions please contact digital@newvision.co.ug

  • mail
  • img
blog comments powered by Disqus
Also In This Section
Rosetta comet-landing is Science
The top scientific breakthrough of 2014 was the European Space Agency''s Rosetta spacecraft''s rendez-vous with a comet....
N. Korea denies involvement in Sony cyber attack
North Korea's UN mission denies involvement in a cyber attack on Sony Pictures after the US FBI said it had evidence that Pyongyang was behind the hacking....
Sony hack a
Cyber attacks that ultimately prompted Sony Pictures to scrap the release of a madcap comedy about North Korea are a "serious national security matter," the White House said...
Apple co-founder Wozniak skeptical on smartwatches, Google Glass
Steve Wozniak says he is no fan of smartwatches and believes Google Glass will fail as he cautioned not to expect the company he co-founded, Apple, to always lead the way into new technologies....
Hackers trick way into ICANN computers
The private agency that acts as a gatekeeper for the Internet on Wednesday said that hackers tricked their way into its computers....
Venus probe ends after it runs out of fuel
The space probe that spent eight years carrying out a detailed analysis of Venus is out of fuel, and is set to die....
Do you agree with the ban on the export of maids?
Yes
No
Can't Say
follow us
subscribe to our news letter