William Hughes, writing for the AV Club:
Scientists at Facebook have published a paper showing that
they manipulated the content seen by more than 600,000 users in an
attempt to determine whether this would affect their emotional
state. The paper, “Experimental evidence of massive-scale
emotional contagion through social networks,” was published in The
Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences. It shows how
Facebook data scientists tweaked the algorithm that determines
which posts appear on users’ news feeds — specifically,
researchers skewed the number of positive or negative terms seen
by randomly selected users. Facebook then analyzed the future
postings of those users over the course of a week to see if people
responded with increased positivity or negativity of their own,
thus answering the question of whether emotional states can be
transmitted across a social network. Result: They can! Which is
great news for Facebook data scientists hoping to prove a point
about modern psychology. It’s less great for the people having
their emotions secretly manipulated.
This is hugely controversial, but I’m only surprised that anyone is surprised. Yes, this is creepy as hell, and indicates a complete and utter lack of respect for their users’ privacy or the integrity of their feed content. Guess what: that’s Facebook.
“Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me,” the saying goes. Fool me two dozen times — there’s no adage for that.
★ Saturday, 28 June 2014