Facebook finally released a statement regarding the end-user testing it did on some Facebook users that involved emotion contagion by manipulating our/these users’ news feed. The news of the study spread like wildfire among critics and Facebook’s been trying to douse the flames since last week.
In the study Facebook targeted specific users and manipulated their news feed by “hiding” certain posts and articles in order to study our response to more positive, or more negative (as an example) articles. Also known as emotional contagion.
In a public post on Facebook, one of the co-authors of the study, Adam D. I. Kramer, a member of Facebook’s Core Data Science Team, finally responded to the study’s critics.
“The reason we did this research is because we care about the emotional impact of Facebook and the people that use our product,” wrote Kramer. “We felt that it was important to investigate the common worry that seeing friends post positive content leads to people feeling negative or left out. At the same time, we were concerned that exposure to friends’ negativity might lead people to avoid visiting Facebook.
But while Kramer’s initial statement regarding the company’s reasoning behind the study will be a welcome clarification for some, there’s still the matter of most import to the study’s critics: involving users in a psychological experiment without their consent.
After summarizing the study’s methodology, then emphasizing that “Nobody’s posts were ‘hidden,’ they just didn’t show up on some loads of Feed,” Kramer then wades, in indirect fashion, into the delicate territory of how Facebook views the matter of user experiments on the site.
Hmm..well that is a tricky way of wording it. What’s the difference between “not hiding posts” and “it didn’t show up”. Facebook clearly did not think this through properly. But, with Facebook as big and as important as it is, we are left with few options. We are a world so dependant and consumed by Facebook that we get upset, throw our hands in the air to complain, only to get right back at it after 5 minutes. Who cares?
[Source: Facebook Responds to Controversial End User Testing]