Manipulative Facebook study invites UK probe


The UK data regulator is investigating a manipulative study by Facebook aimed at verifying that the network was capable of triggering emotional contagion.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) in the UK is investigating the study and plans to ask Facebook questions.

The study by the social network has prompted angry responses among users. Carried out during the period of a week in 2012, it involved doctoring what people would receive in their newsfeeds.

It then gauged if people would go on posting positive or negative statuses based on the negativity or positivity of the content they would receive through their newsfeeds.

It found out that the emotional nature of the content in the newsfeeds worked to affect the subjects’ moods.

“Emotional states can be transferred to others via emotional contagion, leading people to experience the same emotions without their awareness,” the study authors wrote.

Popular responses have shown indignation among some users.

“#Facebook MANIPULATED USER FEEDS FOR MASSIVE PSYCH EXPERIMENT… Yeah, time to close FB acct!” read one Twitter posting. Other tweets used words like “super disturbing,” “creepy” and “evil.”

The study’s authors have said that their institutional review boards approved the research “on the grounds that Facebook apparently manipulates people’s News Feeds all the time.”

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