Facebook manipulation experiment has connections to DoD "emotional contagion" research

Here's a new wrinkle on the massive emotion-manipulation study that Facebook conducted in concert with researchers from Cornell and UCSF: one of its researchers is funded under a US Department of Defense program to study "emotional contagion" and civil unrest.

Cornell's Jeffrey T Hancock, one of the three scientists who conducted the experiment (which was likely illegal) does active work on the DoD's Minerva program, which studies the spread, manipulation, and evolution of online beliefs.

The US military and intelligence apparatus has a long history of attempting to manipulate public opinion -- from sneaking Russian editions of Dr Zhivago into the USSR to the covert creation of a "Cuban Twitter". It has also actively delved into directly manipulating online discourse, commissioning "persona management" software that would allow a single spy to run 20 simultaneous online identities for message-board debates and then refining the project with a $2.76M grant to Ntrepid, an LA startup formed to create this software.

It's not clear whether this specific experiment came under the umbrella of Hancock's DoD funding. But it's clearly thematically connected with the rest of the Minerva program, which also has some legitimate ends, such as identifying and countering other countries' sock-puppet programs.

Facebook's Psychological Experiments Connected to Department of Defense Research on Civil Unrest [SCG News]

(Image: Our hero, the sock puppet, Quinn Dombrowski, CC-BY-SA)

Notable Replies

  1. I think I found your problem right here.

  2. I like to listen to the radio. I like to read the papers. I Like to go on facebook and tell everyone what i just heard and read. I'm a good citizen, who does what he can. I have no strong views on anything really. And now i find out i'm just a vector. I'm helping spread propaganda that doesn't even dare to tell us who it's from. Even my burps are contagious. Do i truly have any thoughts of my own?

  3. I have never been more proud of the fact that I don't have a fucking Facebook account.

  4. It's not clear whether this specific experiment came under the umbrella of Hancock's DoD funding.

    It's very clear if you actually look.

    The details of the DoD funded project in question can be viewed here. No new material has been published for two years, and the funding period ended last year. Hancock's contribution was a single paper published five years ago and that can be read here.

    Can't believe I'm defending Facebook, but SCG News isn't considered reputable by anyone except Putin. Posts like this are manipulative, Cory, whether you intend it or not. I still love you, but I wish you wouldn't stoop to their level. What's that old quote? "He who fights with morally bankrupt internet emperors might take care lest he thereby become a bit of a wanker." Something like that, anyway.

Continue the discussion bbs.boingboing.net

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