Facebook faces UK probe into 'unethical' emotion study

Stuart O'Connor Facebook, Social Media Leave a Comment

Facebook is being investigated to assess whether an experiment in which it manipulated users’ news feeds to study the effect it had on moods might have broken data protection laws, The Register has reported.

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The Information Commissioner’s Office is said to be looking into the experiment carried out by the social network and two US universities in which almost 700,000 users had their news feeds secretly altered to study the impact of “emotional contagion”.

The Register says that a spokesman for the ICO told them: “We’re aware of this issue, and will be speaking to Facebook, as well as liaising with the Irish data protection authority, to learn more about the circumstances.”

The experiment was carried out in one week during January 2012 in collaboration with Cornell University and the University of California.

The aim of the government-sponsored study was to see whether positive or negative words in messages would lead to positive or negative content in status updates.

Many users reacted angrily following reports of the findings, which were published in the June 17 edition of the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

By Stuart O'Connor | July 2nd, 2014