Menlo Park, California – It has come out that social networking giant Facebook conducted a secret 7-day test on hundreds of thousands of unsuspecting users to gauge their emotional responses to skews or biases in news feeds. In other words, the social networking site used by hundreds of millions of people daily didn’t bother to get anyone’s consent to be part of the social experiment. What Facebook learned is that users would respond to the slant Facebook placed on the news feed be that positive or negative. Often times the users would respond with emoticons that mirrored the skew placed on the news story. Unwittingly, it underscores the actual presence of what are termed “low information” voters who are people which tend to rely on snappy headlines from Yahoo for an understanding of issues facing the nation.
So upon whom did Facebook prey upon as live guinea pigs for the experiment? Well, anyone who used the English version of the site, which is most of the revenue generating demographic, were automatically qualified for the experiment. The results were recently published in a study of how “emotional contagions” can be promulgated through computer networks. This is a phenomenon which has been known to occur from time to time, but the experiment indicated that it can also be instigated. Naturally, the negative posts tended to draw the strongest responses from people. Often times the positive skews would get ignored.
Critics charge that the data from such experiments may lead Facebook and other similar sites to exploit the emotions of their users in order to gin up most posts. They also charge that foreign governments might be able to use the data to exploit the emotions of their citizens. Some scientists participating in the study had trouble with the ethics involved in the data collection phase, but ultimately decided to collect their paycheck.
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Facebook manipulated users’ moods in secret experiment to show bad moods spread