After a study conducted by Facebook researchers, controversy has been stirred up in response to Facebook users feeling like lab rats, uninformed of a study being conducted in the first place.
For a research project and eventually a paper, researchers at Facebook tweaked what thousands of users saw in their news feeds, twisting the content to be more positive or negative than normal. Then they checked users’ status updates to see if the content affected what they wrote. They found that, yes, Facebook users’ moods are affected by what they see in their news feeds. Users who saw more negative posts would write more negative things on their own walls, and the same for positive posts.
The experiment turned out to be very controversial because the participants never clearly agreed to be part of it.
In a Facebook post, Adam D.I. Kramer, a Facebook employee and one of the study’s authors, wrote: “Our goal was never to upset anyone. 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.”
Facebook’s data use policy does say user information can be used for “internal operations” including research, though it is unclear whether that includes experiments such as this one that was conducted with experts outside the company from Cornell University and the University of California who collaborated with Facebook researchers.
Now, the question posed to Facebook reps: “Was this research conducted without informing users of the study?”
Although Facebook reps have responded to the claims in attempt to refute the accusations, the response to this controversy hasn’t stopped some from feeling violated and angry.
Ashley Woods is an entertainment, news, and fashion blogger in pursuit of a long term career in media and journalism. She enjoys reading and writing about the latest buzz on gossip news and celebrities. Her dream is to be editor in chief of a publication empowering and inspiring its readers.