Facebook is currently known as a company that can do no wrong when it comes to business decisions and acquisitions. Facebook is also a company that is known for doing many things wrong when dealing with the people who use it and their personal information, their Facebook accounts and setups, and now their emotions. A couple of weeks ago, Facebook admitted that it had run non consensual emotional data manipulation experiments on many of it users. Facebook (along with scientists from Cornell) had manipulated the news feed so that they would see more sad articles and then collect data on the reactions and status posts of those tested on. While I’m not sure what sort of reaction they were expecting when they released this news, people were obviously furious and appalled that this sort of experiment was done without even asking or giving a warning that this might be a possibility. With all of the worries about data privacy and how big business is stripping those rights away, the Facebook revelation was swiftly condemned by users, reporters, bloggers, and everyone else in between.
Clearly the mass use of social media, and the experiments using it, have entered unexplored territory when it comes to ethics and rules regarding non consensual experimentation. Because of the hugely negative backlash (Facebook later released an apology), an international group of bioethics researchers have written an article attempting to deal with the unexplored world of large-scale social computing research. Before the advent of these massively popular social networks, no one had to worry about this sort of issue. Now that social networks are ubiquitous, there needs to be a set of rules that are to be followed so this sort of mass betrayal doesn’t happen again. It might not have been a big deal this time, but the rules need to be created before anyone else continues down this slippery slope.
If you’d like to read more, the article is here.