Lou Dobbs from Fox Business News has reported on the recent outcry in the social media space on the news that the most famous social network of the 21st century i.e. Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ:FB) had conducted an experiment over its large user base.
The experiment that was psychological in nature was conducted to determine the effect that news feeds in the social network can have on its users emotions i.e. whether a positive or negative news feeds can generate a similar positive or negative comments respectively from a user.
The result of the study was obvious but at the same time it was also a warning bell i.e. the study showed that Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ:FB) can guide the emotions of a majority of its users in a positive or negative direction by altering the content of its news feeds.
“Facebook surreptitiously conducted a massive psychological experiment on nearly 700,000 unwitting users. For a week back in 2012, the social network manipulated the news feeds of those users to determine whether positive or negative content would affect their emotions and subsequent Facebook postings and updates. The results were utterly obvious and predictable. There is a correlation between negative or positive messages to a user and the messages the user subsequently sends to others. How about that? The researchers from Facebook, the University of California and Cornell, thereby concluded, social media networks render people vulnerable to massive scale emotional contagions.” said Dobbs.
Dobbs said that even though users of the social network did not like to be treated like subjects of an experiment, Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ:FB) can easily say that its users have agreed to its data use policy.
Dobbs related this incident to various other controversies that Facebook was involved into in the past. Moreover, currently Facebook is also reported to be in a legal dispute with the Manhattan District Attorney’s office on disallowing the government from having access to the online database of its users for collecting evidences on investigations.
Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ:FB) is reported to have already shared the data and is fighting a legal battle to get back the data from the government and also to restrict any future access to such data by government authorities.
Other events included a 2007 ad initiative by Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ:FB) to track the purchasing habits of its users in order to use it to generate related ads on their news feeds. Similarly in 2009, it went for a settlement with the FTC for changing the privacy settings of its users without their consent.