There is a serious uproar & protests going on in the social media world after news came in that Facebook has conducted some secret psychological research on it’s users, without informing them. Termed as a‘disturbing emotional experiment’ users and social media experts are demanding apology and justification from world’s biggest social network.
Researchers from Cornell University and the University of California collaborated with Facebook and devised an psychological experiment wherein news feed of more than 6.5 lakh users were specially tweaked.
These users, who unwittingly became part of this experiment, were forced to see positive and negative posts based on the experiment.
Some of these users’ newsfeed on Facebook only showed positive posts and the rest of the user’s newsfeed only showed negative posts.
Termed as an ‘emotional experiment’, the scientists then recorded the response of these users based on the positive or negative newsfeed. After evaluating the results and responses, the study was published in the journal called “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA”, and as per the published journal, “Emotions expressed by friends, via online social networks, influence our own moods, constituting, to our knowledge, the first experimental evidence for massive-scale emotional contagion via social networks.”
Hardly any surprises over here as the human mind will react and respond accordingly, based on the positive or negative news from their friends and family.
What is the fuss?
Privacy advocates, social media experts and lawyers are demanding to know that why Facebook conducted such an emotional and psychological experiment without informing 6 lakh+ users, and how far is this allowed as per the law.
At a time when Facebook has 1 billion+ users, with a wealth of private information about everyone, is it ethical to conduct such ‘social experiment’ on unaware users?
Politicians in UK have demanded a judicial enquiry into this experiment done by Facebook in manipulating user’s newsfeed as one of the parliamentary member quoted, “This is extraordinarily powerful stuff and if there is not already legislation on this, then there should be to protect people..”
Internet expert Clay Johnson, whose company managed the US President Obama’s online election campaign in 2008 termed this experiment as a “terrifying study” as he said, “Could the CIA incite revolution in Sudan by pressuring Facebook to promote discontent? Should that be legal?”
Another privacy activist Lauren Weinstein shared, “I wonder if Facebook KILLED anyone with their emotion manipulation stunt. At their scale and with depressed people out there, it’s possible”
Facebook Plays It Down
Facebook played down the controversy saying that when users choose to use their website, they have agreed to their terms of usage wherein it has been mentioned that user’s newsfeed can be altered and modified as per the company’s policies.
Adam D.I. Kramer who was one of the researchers who took part in this study later apologized for the protests and uproar as he shared, “The reason we did this research is because we care about the emotional impact of Facebook and the people that use our product. We felt that it was important to investigate the common worry that seeing friends post positive content leads to people feeling negative or left out. At the same time, we were concerned that exposure to friends’ negativity might lead people to avoid visiting Facebook.”
Such psychological experiments are being conducted all over the world to understand human mind. But Facebook is a social network, where users are more interested in interacting and engaging with their friends and family members. Such social experiments are, without any doubt, unethical, illegal and it completely undermines the trust which billions of users have put on Facebook. We hope that such experiments are not conducted in future.
Do share your views by commenting right here.