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
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)

(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.

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Showing 3 of 3 comments
FrankFurter
Jun 30, 2014 10:21 PM CDT
I AM NOT A GUINNEA PIG. Well, maybea little, a little bitty guinnea pig, in a big social experiment with no redeeming values except to manipulate the little money (they give us) to give it back to them.
CasperImproved
Jun 30, 2014 10:59 AM CDT
I'm glad I don't do social media sites like face-book. TMI about the private life is all ready available to the world as it is. Concerns about attempted manipulation? Someone should receive punishment.
Winston_Smith
Jun 30, 2014 8:43 AM CDT
This is silly, manipulating users' emotions is the core competency of every "free" website out there. How else are they going to sell stuff?