News broke over the weekend that Facebook conducted a psychological study on nearly 700,000 users without their consent.
The news feeds of users had been manipulated to control which emotional expressions they were exposed to.
The ‘experiment’ was conducted on behalf of the University of California and Cornell University over the period of one week in 2012. The study aimed to find out what happens when users are constantly exposed to negative news stories in their feed. Would they then go on to post more negative stories on social media themselves?
Many people have been outraged by the news, but do they have the right to be? Facebook is a free service and users are not customers. It is a bit like a farm; animals stay there for free and have everything provided for them, but they are the product not the customer. The real customers are the companies advertising to the users, and it appears that the universities involved paid to conduct the test.
Facebook is adamant that it hasn’t broken any laws, but many political leaders are calling for the social media site to be brought to justice for this. With news of this only breaking two years later, who knows what else they have been up to in the meantime!