Facebook’s New News Feed Manipulation Study Meets Sharp Condemnation
Initially, Facebook came around to help people socialize across the world at the “face” level. It is no wonder people have thousands of “friends,” and yet, they do not know the real names of more than 90 percent of them! That aside, the essence was to provide a platform for people to interact without geographical limitations. However, the developments that have taken place in the last few years are leaving users with real reasons to be concerned about their privacy. For instance, people have protested its clandestine study that involved 689,000. During the research, they manipulated people’s friends’ postings trying to see how much it could influence their feelings. The bone of contention here is that the study was carried out behind people’s backs, and worse still, it targeted users’ emotions. Facebook spying is slowly encroaching on people’s privacy not just by tapping into their smartphone conversations, but also attempting to manipulate their feelings. Besides knowing your marital or relational status, what you like, which college you attended, who your biggest music artiste is, Facebook is still thirsting for more and it is now taking it into its hands to decide how you need to feel—happy or sad. And mark you, it intends to do all this using a few strokes of your computer.
In the report, we now have very ugly details that show experiments in which the firm manipulated details from more than 689,000 posted on their homepages In the purported “study” or simply put—outrageous encroachment, Facebook tells us that it “discovered” that such a move could make people enjoy more happiness or lose it by subjecting them to “emotional contagion.”
In a study with academics from Cornell and the University of California, the company mutilated and doctored important user content such the photos and web links their connections had uploaded on the walls of users in their social spheres. During one test, they confined the exposure to constructive emotional content of their connections aiming to reduce their personal positive posts. In another test, there was a reduction of how much they exposed the user to content filled with negative emotion. In this experiment, they came up with results that stood in utter contrast to those of the previous test.
The overall results of the study found out that the feelings people show through social media networks affect the feelings and moods of their friends. But in a quick rejoinder, human rights groups, activists, political leaders, and attorneys specialized in online affairs have condemned the infringing study. They all agree that it was a great “scandal” that is highly disturbing and spooky. In fact, one high-ranking UK MP has appealed to parliament to investigate how and why Facebook could have the audacity to conduct such a mass infringement on people’s privacy. Definitely, any sensible person upholding the sanctity of human privacy should also be concerned about the massive manipulation of people’s emotional reactions by deleting some details from their postings.
In his condemnation of the outrageous encroachment, Jim Sheridan maintains that this type of dealing is too much to go Scott-free, and hence, there is a need to make relevant laws to stem such presumptuous behavior. The legislator also condemns the manipulation of information touching on the privacy of other people’s lives and thoughts since it is a cheap way of opening a door for rogue politicians to manipulate people’s thoughts for their own selfish ends. He also reiterates that manipulation of this magnitude deserves legal protection and the awareness of those involved in it.
In its usual “deny-and-move-on” response, Facebook has come out defending something that is too obviously undefendable. Through one its spoke persons, the firm claims that the purported research was meant to boost its service delivery and allow its users to enjoy more relevant and engaging content on its site. She further added that the biggest portion of their outrageous research seeks to understand people’s response to various forms of content regardless of its negative or positive nature.
However, there are concerns that such a move may as well give a foothold to some people to abuse it for commercial ends especially during highly charged political moments by feeding users with manipulative thoughts to make them “feel happy.” Additionally, we have fears that the company’s experiment violated all the moral and legal boundaries that require it to inform users about the study before conducting it. This point is grave, since the tenets of privacy demand that you cannot use people or their private details in a study without their prior consent. The legal provisions of the United States and other countries require the researchers should explain to participants the outcomes and aims of the research, all potential dangers involved should there be any. But according to James Grimmelmann’s blog, Facebook violated all these federal requirements.
The legal provisions of the United States and other countries require the researchers should explain to participants the outcomes and aims of the research, all potential dangers involved should there be any. But according to James Grimmelmann’s blog, Facebook violated all these federal requirements.