When signing up for a Facebook account, the majority of users do not read the Facebook Data Use Policy and consider that their private user data is secure. While this is true, this does not mean that Facebook itself can’t use the data you post. This is where Facebook has gathered some data from random account feeds in order to use it in a little social experiment.
Facebook apparently has tweaked the content seen by more than 600,000 users in order to determine whether or not it would affect their emotional state. The study paper has been published under the name of “Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks,” at The Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences. Users who like to view it would find how Facebook data scientists tampered the algorithm managing which posts appear on users’ news feeds, having it manage the number of negative and positive posts appearing on users’ news feed. Future posts from users ‘participating’ in the experiment were then analysed over the course of one week in order to determine if they would respond with increased positivity or negativity of their own and thus determining whether emotional states could be transmitted over a social network.
The result turned out to be positive, having users respond to the negativity or positivity of the content manipulated. The scientists have proved that the ‘mood’ can be changed over a social network and the overall point about modern psychology. Also, for concerned Facebook users, the paper states that the data gathered has been within the “internal operations, including troubleshooting, data analysis, testing, research and service improvement.” agreement which everyone had to agreed with before signing up for a Facebook account. In addition to the latter, all personal and private data gathered has been done using the policy’s liberal constraints, having a machine analyse and pick out positive and negative posts.
Adam Kramer is listed as being the lead author for the paper, having him state in an interview that the reason he had joined the social network is that “Facebook data constitutes the largest field study in the history of the world.”. The latter statement proves the sad truth that while users view Facebook as a fun and loving place to post pictures, quotes, places you have been to and personal experience, it is without question a huge ‘research lab’ for some higher-ups as well.