It has been revealed that Facebook have conducted a psychology experiment on over 600,000 users without their permission, to find out how they respond to positive and negative messages.
In a study with academics from Cornell and the University of California, Facebook filtered news feeds of different users. They then performed many tests which included: reducing exposure to ‘negative emotional content’. It found that friends would respond more to negative posts. Users that were exposed to emotional posts tended to withdraw from posting themselves.
The conclusion from the study stated that: “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.”
However, many Facebook users are not happy with the study and some now believe that Facebook will use this technique to manipulate the feelings of other users. This can be a very dangerous technique when agencies such as governments are involved. Some politicians have described the study as ‘disturbing’ and ‘spooky’.
A Facebook spokeswoman has stated that the study was only carried out “to improve our services and to make the content people see on Facebook as relevant and engaging as possible”.
Facebook’s ‘data use policy’ reserves the right for Facebook to use information “for internal operations, including troubleshooting, data analysis, testing, research and service improvement”. Therefore what the researchers have taken part in is completely legal.