Scientists at Facebook have published a paper showing that they manipulated the content seen by more than 600,000 users in an attempt to determine whether this would affect their emotional state. The paper, “Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks,” was published in The Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences. It shows how Facebook data scientists tweaked the algorithm that determines which posts appear on users’ news feeds—specifically, researchers skewed the number of positive or negative terms seen by randomly selected users. Facebook then analyzed the future postings of those users over the course of a week to see if people responded with increased positivity or negativity of their own, thus answering the question of whether emotional states can be transmitted across a social network. Result: They can! Which is great news for Facebook data scientists hoping to prove a point about modern psychology. It’s less great for the people having their emotions secretly manipulated.
Saturday, June 28, 2014
I was just speaking to Kaleesha this morning about my vacation from Facebook and then this pops up. On the one hand, science! On the other hand how does it feel to be unwittingly manipulated in such an experiment. Even more, consider the ramifications. Facebook was, previous to this, interested in the potential for manipulating its users and took the time to investigate. Now it has confirmation of what it can do. The first time (?) was for science what about the next time. What do you think?