Facebook Controversy over Secret Emotions Study

Posted on Jul 8 2014 - 1:03pm by Julius

A controversial and secret Facebook experiment has led to criticism of the social media giant.

The psychology experiment by Facebook involved them manipulating news items, which were then seen by close to 700,000 people who didn’t know that they were seeing a news feed that had been tampered with.

The idea behind this experiment was to see if “exposure to emotions” caused users to then post in a different way. The work was done by Facebook in collaboration with a couple of US universities and they said that it didn’t involve any “unnecessary collection” of users’ data. In fact, they say that they didn’t use any data that was associated with any specific person’s account on Facebook.

The universities that got involved with the research were Cornell University and the University of San Francisco. However, criticism was quick to arrive, with some people claiming that it shows a failure to consider the ethics aspect of social media sites.

An Investigation Called For


One person who has jumped into the issue us Labour MP Jim Sheridan. He is a member of the Commons media select committee and he has suggested that an investigation be carried out on the matter. He was quoted as saying that this is “extraordinarily powerful stuff” and that there should be legislation on it “to protect people”.

In total, 689,000 Facebook users unwillingly took part in the experiment in a week in 2012. The research working by changing people’s new feed to “manipulate the extent” to which they saw themselves exposed to different levels of emotion. It turned out that those users who sat less negative news stories went on to make fewer negative Facebook posts.

Do you think that that sort of secret research should be allowed?

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