Facebook shrugs as ‘emotional contagion’ research outrages its users: Over the weekend, a paper was published in a prestigious journal by Facebook researchers who, for one week, intentionally modulated the news feeds of Facebook users.Not “passively monitored”, mind you; rather, actively manipulated.
Some saw a dash more positive items in their feeds; some received a more grim daily dose, as the researchers snipped out happy tidings, all of which led to the conclusion that yes, emotional states are contagious, and no, seeing friends post happy news does not necessarily make people want to jump off ledges.
The researchers subsequently also found out that just as emotions are contagious, so too is the outrage that spewed out of internetlandia at the idea of having been toyed with unawares.
Fury spread on Monday, coming from politicians, lawyers, and internet activists who ripped to shreds the experiment and its ethical standing.
Here’s the gist of the stick that stirred up this hornet’s nest:For one week in January 2012, data scientists tampered with what almost 700,000 Facebook users saw when they logged on.Some saw content that had mostly happy, positive words; some were served content that analysis showed was sadder than average.
The researchers found that at the end of the week, the manipulated Facebook users – or, as the New York Times has dubbed them, the “lab rats” – were themselves more likely to post using correspondingly extra-positive or extra-negative words.