Facebook altered the news feeds of 689,003 users as part of a massive experiment in “emotional contagion,” according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Led by a Facebook data scientist, Facebook altered people’s feeds to include either more positive or negative posts, then monitored user responses. “Emotional states can be transferred to others via emotional contagion, leading people to experience the same emotions without their awareness,” concluded the authors. Although users consent to being part of “research” when they sign on to Facebook, hundreds of news media are raising concerns about Facebook deliberately and secretly trying to make people sad.
“If you are exposing people to something that causes changes in psychological status, that’s experimentation,” James Grimmelmann, a professor of technology and the law at the University of Maryland told Slate. “This is the kind of thing that would require informed consent.”
Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks (Kramer, Adam et al. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, June 2014. 8788–8790, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1320040111)
Facebook’s Unethical Experiment (Slate, June 28, 2014)
Everything We Know About Facebook’s Secret Mood Manipulation Experiment (The Atlantic, June 28, 2014)