The Facebook Experiment, what’s it all about?

Last edited 17 November, 2022
Industry Insights, Other
1 min read.

What Happened?

You may have seen in the news or on publications such as Mashable that our old friend Facebook, now potentially facing federal investigation has been found to be manipulating its users moods without their consent.

In an experiment conducted earlier this year, Facebook injected nearly 700,000 user’s feeds (unbeknownst to them) with negative content to see if these would breed further negative content.

Facebook’s predictions were confirmed, the results showed that the moods displayed in the injected posts resulted in a “contagion” of that mood on the recipients profile.

So why is everyone so annoyed?

Many people are “outraged” that Facebook has used it’s loyal users in this way, manipulating their emotions, with potential negative side effects that could spin out from their news feeds and into their lives.

More importantly, this was all done without the consent of any of the users in this study. Ethical guidelines dictate that experiments of any kind can only be conducted with the consent of the subject. Facebook disputes this and states that users provided implied consent by confirming their agreement to Facebook’s data usage terms and conditions (the square tick- box we all use and never read).

What’s the point of all this?

PANAS (the body who conducted the experiment) itself questions the validity of the research, stating that it’s unclear whether the resulting positive or negative statuses are caused by the manipulation of posts on their feed or whether an additional confounding variable contributed to the change in mood. Nevertheless, they close the report by stating that these findings have “Massive implications for public health”

More worryingly, than that is what else Facebook might be looking at without our knowledge or consent.

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