Facebook tinkered with users’ feeds for a massive psychology experiment
By William Hughes
Jun 27, 2014 3:30 PM
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.
In order to sign up for Facebook, users must click a box saying they agree to the Facebook Data Use Policy, giving the company the right to access and use the information posted on the site. The policy lists a variety of potential uses for your data, most of them related to advertising, but there’s also a bit about “internal operations, including troubleshooting, data analysis, testing, research and service improvement.” In the study, the authors point out that they stayed within the data policy’s liberal constraints by using machine analysis to pick out positive and negative posts, meaning no user data containing personal information was actually viewed by human researchers. And there was no need to ask study “participants” for consent, as they’d already given it by agreeing to Facebook’s terms of service in the first place.
Facebook data scientist Adam Kramer is listed as the study’s lead author. In an interview the company released a few years ago, Kramer is quoted as saying he joined Facebook because “Facebook data constitutes the largest field study in the history of the world.” It’s a charming reminder that Facebook isn’t just the place you go to see pictures of your friends’ kids or your racist uncle’s latest rant against the government—it’s also an exciting research lab, with all of us as potential test subjects
After reading over the paragraphs, I found it kind of difficult to find certain words or phrases that would make great hyperlinks, so I looked for the author and other facebook related links in order to service that part of the assignment. I found a link to the author, Adam Kramer, as well as the paper itself. I tried to stay away from wikipedia, and also found a great photo on the funniness of uncles and the government, something I experience daily whenever I go onto facebook haha.
Overall, I felt that the information on the paragraphs was enough to support an abstract. I felt that the passage could have given more information on how facebook users were manipulated and would have given an example of a negative an positive emotional outcome due to the posts. I myself would have added some issues on the privacy of facebook overall, as I felt the passage began to delve into that aspect in the second paragraph, which I also treid to expand through my multi media. When I was adding multi media, I tried to stay a little bit funny as always, while still trying to make a point. I included a youtube video from South Park, more importantly the HumanCentIPAD episode. The episode’s concept and execution is vulgar, like any south park episode, but I think the situation when Kyle quickly signs his name on the document with reading the text is a great example of how people feel about the privacy settings on a social media site; most will quickly agree to let anyone see what they say or post without caring about the other smaller details. The episode is a great satire of that sort of situation, and is quite hilarious in the execution. My other posts still tried to remain funny and entertaining while showing the truth of how we feel about Facebook and other social media.
If my users don’t click my links, I would first be very angry!!!! Lol. But in all seriousness, my links add some information on the background of the author and research while giving a few pop culture and social arguments through the photos and video that are entertaining and easy to understand when it comes to this topic.