The social network is coming under some serious fire today for a mood study it conducted back in 2012. Over at the Atlantic, Robinson Meyer explains what it was all about:
For one week in January 2012, data scientists skewed what almost 700,000 Facebook users saw when they logged into its service. Some people were shown content with a preponderance of happy and positive words; some were shown content analyzed as sadder than average. And when the week was over, these manipulated users were more likely to post either especially positive or negative words themselves."
The results were logged and analyzed for a study on "emotional contagion" released in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Facebook users had no idea.
Though it was blessed as legal, the question now is whether it was ethical. As Adrienne LaFrance writes, also at the Atlantic, even Susan Fiske, the editor of the study, had some serious concerns about it.
"People are supposed to be, under most circumstances, told that they're going to be participants in research and then agree to it and have the option not to agree to it without penalty."
The Wire reached out to Jacob Silverman, whose book Terms of Service: Social Media, Surveillance, and the Price of Constant Connection comes out next year, to get more insights about what this all means.