Outrage Erupts Over Facebook’s Psychological Experiment on Users Without Asking Their Permission

Jun 30, 2014  •  Post A Comment

"A social-network furor has erupted over news that Facebook, in 2012, conducted a massive psychological experiment on nearly 700,000 unwitting users," reports The Wall Street Journal. [Note: The WSJ is behind a pay wall and may ask you to pay to read this article.]

Furthermore, according to a report in The Washington Post, "Facebook is unapologetic about the … experiment it was conducting on customers."

WSJ reports: "To determine whether it could alter the emotional state of its users and prompt them to post either more positive or negative content, the site's data scientists enabled an algorithm, for one week, to automatically omit content that contained words associated with either positive or negative emotions from the central news feeds of 689,003 users.

"The research, published in the March issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, sparked a different emotion — outrage — among some people who say Facebook toyed with its users' emotions and uses members as guinea pigs."

Adds The Journal: "The impetus for the study was an age-old complaint of some Facebook users: That going on Facebook and seeing all the great and wonderful things other people are doing makes people feel bad about their own lives.

"The study, [according to a Facebook data scientist], was an attempt to either confirm or debunk that notion. [The data scientist] said it was debunked."

According to The Washington Post, The Atlantic magazine wrote about the ethics of the experiment.

The Post reports: "In a formal statement issued to The Atlantic, a Facebook spokesman defended the research. “We do research to improve our services and make the content people see on Facebook as relevant and engaging as possible. … We carefully consider what research we do and have a strong internal review process.”

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