Facebook plays mind games with its users

Facebook plays mind games with its users


Over the past couple of months, you might have noticed some of your friends on facebook had become a lot more negative about life – or maybe a bit more upbeat? It wasn’t just a coincidence.

You see, facebook took it upon themselves to conduct a large scale psychological experiment on its members, without asking anyone if they minded. Randomly selecting 689,003 English speaking users’ accounts, facebook chose to automatically push more negative or more positive information into those members feeds and then see in turn if those effected members started being noticeably affected in what they in turn posted. It turns out, yes, it does affect the user’s mood.

According to information released in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science:

“…when a person loaded their News Feed, posts that contained emotional content of the relevant emotional valence, each emotional post had between a 10% and 90% chance (based on their User ID) of being omitted from their News Feed for that specific viewing…”

Facebook actually does cover this in their TOC, however many people are rightly upset that any form of mass scale psychological experimentation was conducted on them, without their informed consent.

Facebook has since tried to offer up their side of the story, however once again, it calls into question the core decision making processes in the organisation, which has already been the subject of so many privacy scandals.

Co-author of the paper, Facebook’s cheif data scientist Adam Kramer, has responded to public criticism:

…Having written and designed this experiment myself, I can tell you that our goal was never to upset anyone,” says Kramer. “I can understand why some people have concerns about it, and my co-authors and I are very sorry for the way the paper described the research and any anxiety it caused. In hindsight, the research benefits of the paper may not have justified all of this anxiety…”

About the Author


RodneyI'm a veteran of way too many years of IT (although I still love it) and I currently head up the techincal work over at Host One (major sponsor of this site), where I'm also a partner. Feel free to ask me anything about Cloud Computing and I'll try to be helpful, in a non-salesy kind of way.View all posts by Rodney →

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