Facebook has given itself new restrictions on using its own system for human research experiments.
The firm today tightened its guidelines following the incredible user outrage when the company said its researchers tried to manipulate user moods by adjusting news feed content.
The experiment touched about 1 in 2,500 users - about 700,000 people. During the experiment, negative posts were intentionally withheld to see if it generated a more positive environment. Then Facebook tried the opposite.
Researchers found that when positive expressions were reduced, people produced less positive posts and more negative ones. And when negative posts were reduced, results completely flipped.
While Facebook found that they could influence user mood trends, its secret experiment went largely unappreciated.
Facebook improves research standards
After the outcry by users, Facebook created an internal project review panel. Facebook has given researchers clearer guidelines on procedures and openly admitted to users in a blog by FB Chief Technology Officer Mike Schroepher, "It is clear now that there are things we should have done differently."
He continued that Facebook, " ... believes in research, because it helps build a better Facebook. And like most companies today, our products are built based on extensive research, experimentation, and testing. "
He even said the experiment was done because Facebook has a genuine interest on the emotional impact it has on people, adding, "We felt it was important to investigate the common worry that seeing friends post positive content leads to people feeling negative or left out ... And of course we worry that exposure to friends' negativity might lead people to avoid visiting Facebook."
While the stricter regulations are enforced starting today, Facebook does publish study results. The most recent was published in the PNAS journal and found that negative posts elicit positive responses but also a reduction in positive news leads to more negativity.
How do you feel about the idea of social media sites conducting studies on users? Do you think it causes any harm? Is it just the social media sites themselves that we have to worry about? And finally, even with Facebook's increase in research regulations, do the changes really make the site that much safer to use?
Leave your thoughts in the comments for me below - I really want to hear what you have to say.