Facebook’s Manipulation Study

It looks like social media giant Facebook has been caught toying with its users emotions.  That’s the word following a 2012 study where Facebook manipulated hundreds of thousands of its users’ news feeds without their knowledge.

The premise of the psychological study was to gauge whether positive or negative updates in news feeds could alter the emotional states of nearly unwitting test subjects.

It turns out that the emotions expressed by friends on Facebook are contagious, according to the research published in the March issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

If users saw happy updates, they were more likely to post their own happy updates, the research found. If they saw sad updates, then their updates were more morose.

Legally, Facebook is allowed to do this.  But many people are questioning whether it was the ethical thing to do.

In response to the criticism, the lead researcher has apologized. Adam Kramer posted a lengthy defense of the study.  He said that he and his co-authors were sorry for any anxiety their paper may have caused, and admitted that “in hindsight, the research benefits of the paper may not have justified all of this anxiety.”

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