Facebook Rigged 689,003 users' News Feed Without Consent - Is This the Beginning of the End of Facebook

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By Pavithra Rathinavel | July 1, 2014 9:53 AM EST

Facebook is in hot water again with a recently released study/research that points out that the social networking giant has manipulated users' News Feeds. This breaking news has sent shock waves among the Facebook users across the globe. Outraged users are questioning the ethics behind the aforementioned study, which was carried out by Facebook and various universities.

REUTERS
A man is silhouetted against a video screen with an Facebook logo as he poses with an Dell laptop in this photo illustration taken in the central Bosnian town of Zenica in this August 14, 2013 fiel photo. Facebook Inc's website appeared to be back up on Thursday a few minutes after it displayed a message saying "Sorry, something went wrong". The outage was reported in several countries, including China, Singapore and India.

During the research, the researchers rigged the News Feeds of a whopping 689,003 Facebook users for one week in January 2012, according to Mashable. With this study, the researchers found out that the emotions of others on a user's News Feed can affect the mood of the user.

In other words, moods or emotional states can be transmitted between people virtually with no face-to-face interaction. This exercise was documented and the results were published in the journal titled PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences).

In the words of researchers (via Time), "These results suggest that the emotions expressed by friends, via online social networks, influence our own moods."

Even thought researchers sought the permission of Facebook to conduct the research, the users who were manipulated had no idea that they were being subjected to a study. Hence, many anguished Facebook users are questioning the study and the privacy policies.

From the legal point of you, Facebook or any social networking site are allowed to conduct any such research/studies with users' data. Technically, when a user signs up for any social networking site, he/she agrees to provide their data for analysis, testing and research.

Nevertheless, this case in particular is quite unusual because the researchers are not being criticised or questioned, instead the doctoring of data i.e. News Feed without users' permission and awareness is being questioned.

Mashable also points out that, in case of Psychology, the Psychologists make it a point to get permission from study participants prior to conducting any experiments on them. Even though, Facebook's user agreement provides informed consent, there is no documentation on manipulation or doctoring of data for research.

It is high time, readers read through the Privacy Policy of Facebook that gives the social networking site the required permission to conduct such studies. It is worth noting that, earlier this year, Facebook had acknowledged that they are losing teenagers to other networking sites like Snapchat, Secret and Whisper. Could this be the 'start of the end of Facebook'? Feel free to leave a comment.

Here are tweets from Rob Cerroni and Nina Bernstein capturing the moods of Facebook users:

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(Photo: REUTERS / Dado Ruvic)
A man is silhouetted against a video screen with an Facebook logo as he poses with an Dell laptop in this photo illustration taken in the central Bosnian town of Zenica in this August 14, 2013 fiel photo. Facebook Inc's website appeared to be back up on Thursday a few minutes after it displayed a message saying "Sorry, something went wrong". The outage was reported in several countries, including China, Singapore and India.
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