Researchers from Facebook, Cornell and UCSF published a paper describing a mass-scale experiment in which Facebook users' pages were manipulated to see if this could induce and spread certain emotional states.
They say it was legal to do this without consent, because Facebook's terms of service require you to give consent for, basically, anything
But as legal scholar James Grimmellmann points out, there's a federal law that prohibits universities from conducting this kind of experiment without explicit, separate consent (none of this burying-consent-in-the-fine-print bullshit). Two of the three researchers who worked on this were working for federally funded universities with institutional review boards, and the project received federal funds.
Facebook says that it manipulates feeds all the time, and this was no different, but Facebook is acting as a private company when it does this, not working on a federally funded project, in concert with federally funded researchers. Besides, Grimmelmann further points out that there was real potential for harm in the protocol of the study.
As Grimmelmann says: This is bad, even for Facebook.
Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks [Adam D. I. Kramera, Jamie E. Guillory, and Jeffrey T. Hancock/Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences]
As Flies to Wanton Boys [James Grimmelmann/Labmatorium]
When estimating his net worth, Pepe the Cheeto is apt to include a multibillion dollar valuation for the “Trump” brand-name; but new Trump Hotels will be called “Scion” hotels, “a nod to the Trump family and to the tremendous success it has had with its businesses, including Trump Hotels, while allowing for a clear distinction […]
Facebook — which accounts for as much as 75% of the traffic to popular websites — tweaked its algorithm to downrank those same publishers, who had been engaged in an arms-race to dominate Facebook users’ feeds through techniques intended to gain high rank in Facebook’s secret scoring system.
Update: According to The Verge, Facebook has verified the authenticity of the screenshot below. In what appears to be an internal Facebook post, Zuckerberg defends his company’s ongoing association with Peter Thiel — Facebook investor/board member and major donor to white-supremacist/pro-rape presidential candidate Donald Trump.
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