Massive Facebook psychology experiment raises ethical concerns

July 2, 2014

Facebook has provoked outrage after revealing that it had manipulated 689,003 users’ news feeds as part of a massive psychology experiment. The experiment was intended to determine whether or not shaping displayed content would affect users’ moods. Users did not receive any notification that they would be used as subjects in the research, nor were they debriefed following their participation; but, the researchers said that a clause in the fine print of the site’s user agreement indicated that their information could be used in such a way. On Sunday afternoon, Adam Kramer, the lead researcher in the experiment, apologized on Facebook to affected users. “My co-authors and I are very sorry for the way the paper described the research and any anxiety it caused,” he posted. “In hindsight, the research benefits of the paper may not have justified all of this anxiety.” The experiment was funded in part by the US Army Research Office. Globe and Mail