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article imageFacebook admits mistake on emotional manipulation study

By Sravanth Verma     Oct 7, 2014 in Technology
Social media giant Facebook admitted that it made a mistake in conducting the study, which in June set off a huge furor for manipulating users' emotions on the social site.
"We have taken to heart the comments and criticism. It is clear now that there are things we should have done differently," the company said. CTO Mike Schroepfer admitted that the company should have "considered other non-experimental ways to do this research. In releasing the study, we failed to communicate clearly why and how we did it," he said in a blogpost.
The social network manipulated the newsfeeds of almost 700,000 users for a week in 2012 — without their knowledge or consent — to study emotional theory and how the emotions people were exposed to would affect their behavior on the site.
The results of the experiment, conducted by Facebook researcher Adam D. I. Kramer in collaboration with a team from Cornell and University of California, were published in a paper titled, "Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks." The paper states, "We show [...] that emotional states can be transferred to others via emotional contagion, leading people to experience the same emotions without their awareness."
Facebook, Inc | FindTheBest
While several studies have looked at emotions and peer relations, this study was widely criticized for a lack of ethics, and Facebook has now introduced stricter guidelines to its research wing. However, it has not indicated whether it will seek user consent on further research experiments.
The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) in London stated, "Organisations who want to process people's personal information without explicitly asking for their permission, for instance to carry out research, always need to proceed with caution."
More about facebook privacy, Emotions, Research
 
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