Researcher Sorry for Messing With Facebook Feeds

But, he says, secret experiment didn't impact that many

By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff

Posted Jun 30, 2014 8:15 AM CDT

(Newser) – A co-author of a controversial study that involved secretly altering the News Feeds of some Facebook users back in 2012 has apologized, on Facebook, naturally. "I can understand why some people have concerns about it, and my coauthors and I are very sorry for the way the paper described the research and any anxiety it caused," wrote Facebook data scientist Adam Kramer, per Time. "In hindsight, the research benefits of the paper may not have justified all of this anxiety." The study altered News Feeds so that some users saw more positive status updates while others saw more negative status updates. "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," Kramer explains.

"At the same time, we were concerned that exposure to friends’ negativity might lead people to avoid visiting Facebook." They ended up finding the opposite—those who saw more positive updates were more likely to be positive in their own updates, and vice versa. Kramer goes on to explain that only about 0.04% of users saw their feeds impacted, that the experiment lasted only a week, and that no one had any posts actually "hidden." Still, as The Verge points out, 0.04% of Facebook users amounts to hundreds of thousands of people (689,003, specifically). Facebook provided its own statement to the Guardian, saying the study was meant to help Facebook understand "how people respond to different types of content" so that the social network can provide the most "relevant and engaging" content.

In this May 16, 2012 file photo, a Facebook logo is displayed on the screen of an iPad in New York.
In this May 16, 2012 file photo, a Facebook logo is displayed on the screen of an iPad in New York.   (AP Photo/James H. Collins, File)
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