Jul 07 2014

Facebook Experiment Draws Outrage, Suspicion, and Charges of Ethics Violations

Over the past week Facebook feeds the world over were abuzz with outrage after users learned that more than half a million of them were, unbeknownst to them, the subjects of a covert psychological experiment.

In 2012, for exactly one week, Facebook altered the content that some of its users saw as they scrolled down their newsfeed. The experiment, led by Facebook data scientist Adam Kramer, was aimed at investigating the possible correlation between newsfeed content and users’ emotions. In the experiment, researchers exposed some users to positive content while others were exposed to negative posts. What the researchers discovered is that users’ moods are indeed affected by that they read.

Critics argue that although the experiment is deemed legal according Facebook’s terms and agreements, it was according to one Facebook user, “completely unethical.” Some have even threatened to deactivate their accounts in response.

In its defense, Facebook fired back arguing that the research it conducted was solely to improve its services and make content as engaging and relevant as possible. What this story illustrates, however, is the power that a single tech company has over the information and emotions of such a large chunk of the world’s population – seventeen percent or 1.23 billion people at the latest count.

GUEST: Dino Grandoni, Technology Editor at the Huffington Post

Read Grandoni’s article at www.huffingtonpost.com/tech.

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