Facebook Conducted Experiments With Users Through Their News Feeds Because They Can

Since Facebook is one of the main reasons people stare at their smart phones, Facebook thought it would be fun to conduct a massive psychological experiment on some of their users. Why not with such a captivated audience?

Three studies have laid the groundwork for testing these processes via Facebook, the largest online social network. (i) emotional contagion occurs via text-based computer-mediated communication; (ii) contagion of psychological and physiological qualities has been suggested based on correlational data for social networks generally; and (iii) people’s emotional expressions on Facebook predict friends’ emotional expressions, even days later (although some shared experiences may in fact last several days). To date, however, there is no experimental evidence that emotions or moods are contagious in the absence of direct interaction between experiencer and target. (via)

Okay, to dumb it down, it basically says the study meant to see how users could be emotionally manipulated when scientists messed with their news feeds. Is this legal for Facebook to do this? Yup! The moment you sign up, you consent. This means that you are now taking part in one giant experiment while clicking through photos of when you were younger and better looking. But how many users were experimented on?

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. (via)

If it sounds pretty invasive, it’s because it is. But remember, most of the stuff on a Facebook users news feed is crap anyway. This is just another example of knowing that the Internet is full of unknowns at all angles. You can read the full report here, maybe while pondering just how much Facebook owns you.

(PNAS Via AV Club)