Facebook has come under scrutiny recently over the ethical implications of a study conducted on its user base back in January 2012. The study manipulated over 689,000 user’s news feeds through fixing the sentiment of the content visible in their newsfeed and assessing the effects through “emotional contagion”.
The recent backlash does not question the scientific validity of the study, but more the deception of the platform’s users. The American Psychological Association assessed this issue in the detail around “informed consent”. It was found that nowhere in Facebook’s data use policy was the study of user information mentioned, meaning ethically the undertaking of the study was shady to say the least.
Robert Blackie, director of digital at Ogilvy One marketing agency. states that to avoid global media scandal in the future and even worse, loss of users, Facebook must:
“Have either independent reviewers of what they do or government regulation. If they don’t get the value exchange right then people will be reluctant to use their services, which is potentially a big business problem.”
As much as this is great advice for the future, it seems the backlash for this “slip-up” is already well underway. As the excerpts from user’s tweets show below, Facebook will have to really make this up to their users to get back any faith in their service.
Name another service that conducts “A/B testing” by secretly filtering out communications my friends intend me to see. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
Erin Kissane (@kissane) July 1, 2014
Controversy Over Facebook Emotional Manipulation Study Grows As Timeline Becomes More Clear http://t.co/CH85sDkEVo
Greg McNeal (@GregoryMcNeal) July 1, 2014
Who knows what other research [Facebook] is doing?” http://t.co/X6qnmE2H2v
Matt Ford (@fordm) June 28, 2014
May be time to start looking for an alternative to Facebook……what else can they manipulate? http://t.co/JpOaZwQbYK
Rob Cerroni (@realretroguy) June 29, 2014