Tags: facebook | emotions | experiments | users

Facebook Emotions Experiments Toyed With Users' Feelings in 2012: Report

By    |   Monday, 30 June 2014 09:42 AM

Facebook has come under fire after it was revealed that the social network experimented on the emotions of nearly 700,000 users in 2012.

"What many of us feared is already a reality: Facebook is using us as lab rats, and not just to figure out which ads we'll respond to but actually change our emotions," said one blogger at AnimalNewYork.com, who drew attention to Facebook's experimental research on Friday. A study culled from the experiment was originally published in the March issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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It's commonly known that each Facebook user's News Feed seen upon logging in is curated by an algorithm. Two years ago, the company's Data Science Team tweaked that algorithm for one week in an attempt to influence the positive and negative sentiments of exactly 689,003 users.

By reducing the number of items in a user's News Feed that were positive, Facebook's data scientists found that those users began writing posts themselves that contained fewer positive language markers. According to the study's abstract summary, "When negativity was reduced, the opposite pattern occurred."

"It's completely unacceptable for the terms of service to force everybody on Facebook to participate in experiments," Kate Crawford, visiting professor at MIT's Center for Civic Media and lead researcher at Microsoft, told The Wall Street Journal in reaction to the study.

"Is it okay for Facebook to play mind games with us for science?" asked one Forbes writer. "It's a cool finding, but manipulating unknowing users' emotional states to get there puts Facebook's big toe on that creepy line."

Adam Kramer, who led the study, wrote Sunday on his Facebook page that "In hindsight, the research benefits of the paper may not have justified all of this anxiety." He said that Facebook's internal review process has improved since the 2012 study, writing, "We have come a long way since then."

He also noted that the effect of the algorithm change was very miniscule: those who saw fewer positive posts ultimately reduced their own positive posts by a tenth of one percent.

"I appreciate the statement," one user wrote in a response to Kramer's post. "But emotional manipulation is emotional manipulation, no matter how small of a sample it affected."

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Facebook has come under fire after it was revealed that the social network experimented on the emotions of nearly 700,000 users in 2012.
facebook, emotions, experiments, users
Monday, 30 June 2014 09:42 AM
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