Electronic Privacy Information Center (Epic) – An official complaint has been filed with the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) about Facebook’s psychological experiment that toyed with user’s emotions and their News Feeds.
For one week in 2012, the social media giant targeted around 689,000 English speaking users and split them into two groups. In the first group, Facebook began removing emotionally negative posts for users’ News Feeds, while in the second group, emotionally positive posts were being removed.
Ultimately, their goal was to see how negative and positive emotions can travel through social media. They published their findings in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, in an article entitled “Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks.”
Although the research was a success, the internet has been ablaze with anger at Facebook and its psychological experiment. Digital rights group – the Electronic Privacy Information Center (Epic) has made a note of that anger and has filed an official complaint with the FTC.
Epic stated in its compliant that Facebook overstepped their boundaries when they performed the experiment, saying it is not exactly ethical to toy with people’s emotions like that. They also argue that Facebook had no right to turn over user data to the two colleges it collaborated with in the study.
“The company purposefully messed with people’s minds,” said Epic in its complaint, adding that Facebook did not explicitly obtain people’s permission to do this.
Although Facebook’s chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg apologized for the study, it didn’t really help curb people’s anger.
“This was part of ongoing research companies do to test different products, and that was what it was; it was poorly communicated” she said. “And for that communication we apologize. We never meant to upset you.”
Epic wants Facebook to hand over the algorithms used to do the study, as well as pay damages.
So far, Facebook has made no comment about the complaint.