In a fascinating and yet very creepy revelation, Facebook let know that in 2012 it conducted a secret scientific experiment involving over 600,000 of its Users. The experiment? Contriving the news feeds of the Users to either send positive or negative news on the feed and then try to ascertain the moods of its Users after being fed (and digesting) the manipulated news feed.
The results were, well, not stunning – at least not as stunning as the idea that Facebook conducts scientific experiments on its Users. Yes, surprise, surprise, those that received negative news proceeded to make mostly negative posts on their Facebook page. Alternatively, those that received mostly positive news items on their feed, reacted differently and their posts were mostly positive. Known as emotional contagions, this whole experiment is explained here.
Why anyone would be surprised by this is more striking than the results of the study. If you haven’t figured out that what you read can affect your emotions by now (say, by age 12), then you are either illiterate or extraordinarily stoic. No, what is jaw droppingly shocking is that Facebook would allow its Users to be subjects to a scientific experiment at all. And, for the more legal minded of you, Facebook as declared that this manipulation and study is indeed permitted by the User agreement (that you checked off on, but never read, and even if you did, we are fairly certain it did not explicly state that Users may be subjected to random and unannounced experiments for whatever Facebook determines has merit.
Big brother in action indeed. Facebook doesn’t do this just for the benefit of science, however. It is constantly seeking personal information from its Users for one reason – to sell targeted ads to corporations. The more accurate the targeting, the more money Facebook can charge. Now that it is learning about how manipulated news feeds can affect emotions, its next move (probably already undertaken as the announce study was done in 2012) is how they can further manipulate feeds to get Users into a buying mood and then hit with ads immediately thereafter.
Yes, we live in the age of information. Companies such as Facebook are not here just to make communication easier, they are here to profit on how well it can know you and manipulate your actions. Not sure that Facebook is going to get more likes for this particular stunt.