Facebook's secret user manipulation experiment

  1. With apology, Facebook tries to defuse growing backlash

  2. I know in their fine print they say they can do this, but it goes against all guidelines for ethical studies. I'm surprised anyone published it considering the subjects in the study didn't give express permission as they must for any study I've ever heard of. I was part of an educational study and am currently part of a clinical trial for a heart valve. The amount of paperwork I had to read, have explained and had to sign was significant before the study/trial could proceed.

    Facebook went too far and an apology doesn't cut it with me. They are not research scientists or educators and need to leave it to the professionals who follow the rules.
  3. Any time you see something odd in your Facebook news feed you have to wonder "why is that here?"

    Their halfhearted apology was entirely to get the media off their back so the controversy will die down. You will notice that in that apology they never said they would not do it again. That's because they have been altering users' news feeds to manipulate all along and they are still doing it right now. We will never know the true extent of it, because I doubt any more of the results will be published in scientific journals.
  4. And there was a temporary flap about privacy rights once, too, and that died down without much damage. I expect the same here. People are addicted to FB, and most people don't care what FB is doing as long as they can spend their free time there. If people cared about their rights or their privacy, they wouldn't have anything to do with FB, but it is clear that they DON'T care. I doubt this will have any lasting effects.
  5. You're probably right. By now most people take it for granted that they have no privacy on Facebook. But I don't think many people really considered the potential for manipulation. Imagine your news feed is suddenly bombarded with stories about a political candidate or a particular social agenda. Not because one of your Facebook friends is on a rant, but because someone paid Facebook to promote it (or perhaps the executives at Facebook wanted to promote it).

    This positive vs. negative experiment was trying to figure out how much influence they could have. All the better to determine how much to charge advertisers and others for their services.

    Facebook is a powerful tool and the potential for abuse is high.
  6. I agree, especially with your last line. There is no question that it is a very powerful vehicle for potentially all sorts of things. However, you know that and I know that, and presumably everyone else knows that, too. Indeed, it is too powerful a tool NOT to use, and I doubt that any similar site with as many users would not engage in something like this (or worse).

    When a person "signs" or okays the box after the pages of information outlining what FB can and cannot do, they attest that they are fine with FB's practices. Just because they didn't think FB would do that doesn't mean they can't, and it doesn't mean they won't continue to do so. It just means that people are mostly fine with it. Until there is a viable alternative for staying plugged in that is as easy to use as FB, there will be no mass exodus away from the site. There are a few people screaming loudly about this, but for the most part people neither really understand or care about what happened.

    People CAN affect what FB does, but the only way to do that is for many people to stop using it. That's the only response FB cares about because it will affect their advertising revenue. And it is pretty clear that people are not yet willing to do that.
  7. bag-mania and HauteMama, you both are so right about people possibly expressing outrage but in the end they keep using FB. I recall learning that a value (for example, believing in the right to privacy) is something you will act on to protect; forget about what we say---what do we DO? For myself, I've had situations that challenge how strong my values really are. Sometimes I'm too lazy or selfish to actually stop shopping or eating someplace even though I disagree with the other party. So will I fight for that value or just talk about it? It's a mixed bag, as with most people.

    I'm still disgusted with Zuckerburg and his FB minions, though.
  8. Were the names of the Universities revealed?
  9. There are no ethics involved in this 'company' anywhere.

    I'll never understand why anyone uses them.
  10. I believe they were Cornell and Princeton, based on their being part of this article.

  11. So much for thinking universities are following educational study guidelines--rules that any beginning graduate student should know. I wasn't going into research but was required to take a class that covered issues like these so we could distinguish between valid studies and those that aren't well-designed.. No excuse, IMO, for Princeton or Cornell.
  12. Hmm, wonder how other researchers would feel about this.