Facebook manipulated 700,000 user posts for research paper

Facebook conducted a secret study of 700,000 users back in 2012 according to a research paper released by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS) journal.

The study took place during the 11th-18th of January 2012 and involved “Secretly manipulated” news feeds. According to the research paper Facebook engineers adjusted the emotional content of the 700,000 users’ posts to see if “Emotional states can be transferred to others via emotional contagion, leading people to experience the same emotions without their awareness.”

The results of the research basically showed that when Facebook reduced users positive expressions, users posted far fewer positive posts and increased their negativity, while the opposite was true when negative posts were adjusted.

The PNAS research said that “These results indicate that emotions expressed by others on Facebook influence our own emotions, constituting experimental evidence for massive-scale contagion via social networks,”

Despite the experiment taking place without users’ knowledge, it didn’t breach Facebook’s terms of service and usage. The company also say that during the research users Facebook posts were not “Visibily modified” and that they can be viewed properly on a Facebook profile and it was only the news feed which was manipulated.

Source: PNAS, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

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I'm pretty sure facebook use their newfeed algorithm, to influence opinions.
If you are against Iraq war for instance, you'll see more news implying that this war is not so bad.

This study was already done several times.

Anyways, since we are pointing at obviously facts :
-flamebait message brings more responses than regular messages.
-Shocking subjects attract more customers. For example:
OBAMA IS DEAD
Obama is dead serious about the problem in Middle West ;-)

and so on.

Google recently said in their I/O keynote that users capture millions of selfies every day on Android, and nobody has a problem Google scanning personal photos to draw such conclusions...

KiloByte said,
Google recently said in their I/O keynote that users capture millions of selfies every day on Android, and nobody has a problem Google scanning personal photos to draw such conclusions...

i wish people like you would would think a bit deeper into what you just said. Its 100% an outright lie the way you just worded it. It would be like saying "neowin scans your screen every keystroke you make when making a post. They are spying on you!" Sounds stupid right? A command of a keystroke from a keyboard is the same thing as a command of a photo from the phones CPU to trigger the front facing camera. Google is NOT scanning your photos just as much as Neowoin isn't scanning your screen. Quit spreading fear.

I think you missed the keynote man... The executive also said in the keynote that his team told him that 31 million of them (selfies) were duck faces...

KiloByte said,
I think you missed the keynote man... The executive also said in the keynote that his team told him that 31 million of them (selfies) were duck faces...
you missed it being a joke, can i say a funny phrase and you can take that serious too?

That's why Facebook defaults to "Top Stories" instead of "Most Recent". And now on their newest Android app, "Most Recent" is even harder to set and keep active. Facebook's algorithm for what it wants you to see is horrendous.

fuzi0719 said,
That's why Facebook defaults to "Top Stories" instead of "Most Recent". And now on their newest Android app, "Most Recent" is even harder to set and keep active. Facebook's algorithm for what it wants you to see is horrendous.

There's the addon social fixer, that allows to stay with "most recent" as default.

I would like to think that the adjustments made were subtle but if my news feed was full of doom and gloom, I would think twice before posting some inane positive post. Even more so, if someone's news feed was full of positive things, then I think it would make them more likely to post a positive post as a kind of 'me too'. It doesn't necessarily have anything to do with changing the way they feel, other than maybe an empathic feeling if a friend posts some really bad news and a proud/congratulatory (or jealous :p) feeling if a friend posts some really good news.

0nyX said,
One does not simply have Facebook account and complain about privacy

I think controlling physiological states of massive amounts of people is a tad different than privacy concerns. Kinda flies in the face of standard informed consent even if it doesn't violate their own tos.

So the entire worlds emotional state is in the hands of the puppet masters facebook. Brilliant. Its actually fascinating they can do this and I would love to be the one doing it but its scary. They could control wars technically with this research. Rile the right faction group up and next thing you have Riots and Civil wars and unrest across large geographical areas.

Byron, I'm sorry, but your article is really confusing and annoying because of many grammatical errors. You should really go through the text before you post. Fine article, otherwise.

audioman said,
Byron, I'm sorry, but your article is really confusing and annoying because of many grammatical errors. You should really go through the text before you post. Fine article, otherwise.

Remember, though, if you have comments regarding the grammar in the article, you should click the author's name above and select 'Report a problem with the article'. Don't make comments in the forum.

I kind of feel the write up for this news item is a bit of a beat up, they didn't edit any user posts or data, they adjusted the newsfeed to see the emotional contagion effect. Eg did showing more positive news produce more positive responses in the test subject...turns out it does.

Exactly, they modified the ordering of news posts and gave positive posts priority over negative ones. They didn't modify the posts themselves.