Facebook is finding new ways to experiment the emotions study scandal

6.11.2014 Julian Blazek

Just after its mass apology to the LGBT user-base, Facebook has said sorry for conducting emotion experiments on the broader user base. Back in June, as you might remember, Facebook was in some trouble for executing research in which it flooded some users’ news feeds with positive posts and others with negative posts to gauge their impact on the users’ emotional state.

That study resulted in a massive conundrum and Facebook was taken aback as it rushed to respond to its users’ anger at becoming test subjects. The company learnt a lot in that incident. Facebook CTO Mike Schroepfer wrote: “We were unprepared for the reaction the paper received when it was published and have taken to heart the comments and criticism and it is clear now that there are things we should have done differently.”

Facebook clarified how it will go about doing research in the future after their apology. They have announced new guidelines for how these studies will take place, an official process to internally review these studies on emotions and also a secondary site to inform people when and how these studies are taking place.

We’re not sure if there will be any policing of Facebook’s tests by third parties to make it an unbiased account of their actions but Facebook had this to say on the topic: “We designed the training and the review process to help everyone make good decisions when designing tests or research. We also work with a number of outside academics in areas like computational social science and privacy, so we may consult with these people if we face particularly challenging reviews.”

Facebook has brought on lawyers, engineers, and privacy experts to govern its external policing team and that sounds a tad iffy since anyone who works for Facebook may be too close to the company to precisely demonstrate ethical practices.


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