It appears that Facbook purposely manipulated news feeds for hundreds of thousands of its users PR Executive Ronn Torossian 5wPR CEO says. The reason was to study emotional reaction over various social networks. This is the ultimate social media social experiment for facebook.
The individuals responsible for the study were from Cornell University as well as California University in San Francisco. The goal was to find out if showing fewer positive message would make people less likely to post positive content. They also studied if negative message cause more negative content to be posted. The algorithm responsible for putting posts in the news feeds of Facebook members was changed. A program identified happy and sad words. Some members were given happy information from friends, and others were provided with sad information. The resulting posts were then studied.
The study showed that social networks can create good and bad feelings for its members. The problem is that Facebook intentionally manipulated the emotions of thousands of its members. Many people have found this type of study quite unethical. Others feel they may have crossed the line of federal law and human rights declarations. Some believe that such a study should only be conducted with informed consent from participants.
Unknown and intentional manipulation of people’s emotions is a serious matter. Some believe that since Facebook does not receive any federal funding, they may be exempt from Common Rule. These are federal rules that protect human subjects during behavioral and social science experiments. There is now a move to have the Common Rule updated to cover studies such as the ones conducted by Facebook.
There is a section of Facebook’s data use policy that may be interpreted as giving consent to research. It does state that Facebook can use information they receive about its users for internal operations. This use is identified as testing as well as research and service improvement. Many people don’t feel is the same as giving informed consent to be part of a research experiment.
Adam Kramer was one of the people responsible for the research. Once the research was published by the National Academy of Sciences, Facebook users were quick to provide Mr. Kramer with comments on his Facebook page. The comments covered a wide range of responses. Some had no problem with how the study was conducted. Others were enraged, and many people closed their Facebook account. There were even many who felt Facebook should donate money to assist individuals with mental health problems. Many people believe this has decreased the level of trust for participation in Facebook. Experts believe this has damaged their brand identity. Only time will show to what extent.