According to Adrienne LaFrance on The Atlantic, Facebook purposely manipulated what users saw on their timeline in order to "study how it would affect their moods."
The backlash, in this case, seems tied directly to the sense that Facebook manipulated people—used them as guinea pigs—without their knowledge, and in a setting where that kind of manipulation feels intimate. There's also a contextual question. People may understand by now that their News Feed appears differently based on what they click—this is how targeted advertising works—but the idea that Facebook is altering what you see to find out if it can make you feel happy or sad seems in some ways cruel.
Mood researchers have been toying with human emotion since long before the Internet age, but it's hard to think of a comparable experiment offline. It might be different, Fiske suggests, if a person were to find a dime in a public phone booth, then later learn that a researcher had left the money there to see what might happen to it.
"But if you find money on the street and it makes you feel cheerful, the idea that someone placed it there, it's not as personal," she said. "I think part of what's disturbing for some people about this particular research is you think of your News Feed as something personal. I had not seen before, personally, something in which the researchers had the cooperation of Facebook to manipulate people... Who knows what other research they're doing."
Here is what Facebook had to say, noting that perhaps, causing its users anxiety in the name of science, may not have been the best of ideas.
"The reason we did this research is because we care about the emotional impact of Facebook and the people that use our product," says Kramer. "We felt that it was important to investigate the common worry that seeing friends post positive content leads to people feeling negative or left out. At the same time, we were concerned that exposure to friends' negativity might lead people to avoid visiting Facebook."
|Lovers Reconnect Through Facebook 30 Years Later, Get Married|
|MAPTCHA: Map-Based Captcha|
|Everyone's Life on Facebook is Better Than Yours|
|George Takei Wants Star Wars and Star Trek Fans to Unite Against Twilight|
|The 'Make Everything OK' Button|
|The Spaceship Propulsion Compendium|
|Soviet Air Force’s First All-Female Bombing Squad|
|"This very internationalism that contributed to the apocalyptic disaster that ended the Bronze Age."|
|Reviewing Counterfeit Toys Made in China|
|"Most of what kids currently learn at school will probably be irrelevant by the time they are 40."|
|“There was not only automation but where the suggestion that humans had any control [...] was absent too.”|
|Unboxing a Factory Sealed IBM Compatible PC from 1988|
|"Fossil fuel executives want to get a piece of the clean-energy business."|
|“The release of methane from hydrate may be apocalyptic.”|
|Nerf John Wick|
|Introducing Our First Twitter Bot (Sort of): Miss Fortune at @bottune|
|Pat the Zombie: A Cruel Adult Spoof of 'Pat the Bunny'|