Last week it was revealed that for a week back in 2012 Facebook had manipulated close to 700,000 of their user’s news feeds for an online psychological experiment. The premise was fairly simple; they wanted to see how people reacted to mostly all negative stories vs. mostly all positive stories. So, they removed positive stories from some users and they removed negative stories from other’s news feeds. The results weren’t too hard to predict – users who saw only negative stories posted more negatively, and those who saw positive stories posted more positively. It wasn’t exactly rocket science. But that simple experiment has all kinds of Facebook users up in arms, claiming that the social media giant violated their ethical rights and misused their personal data.
Some people are even going so far as threatening Facebook with legal action. One group in particular, EPIC (the Electronic Privacy Information Center), has filed an official complaint with the US Federal Trade Commission, claiming that Facebook manipulated people’s emotions by purposely changing their news feeds. They claim Facebook should be liable to pay damages to the affected users.
Since Facebook’s experiment was a deceptive one, EPIC claims the FTC should take them to task and punish them accordingly. They believe on top of the damages they should have to pay, that they should also be required to turn over the algorithm they used to conduct the experiment in the first place.
From the initial revealing of the experiment, Facebook doesn’t seem to understand why so many people are upset over their actions.
What do you think? Do you think Facebook should be held liable for their secret experiment? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!
[Image via eideard]