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On Ethics, Morals, Experiments, Facebook and Neurochemistry

1st July 2014 by Caitlin Hardie | Content & Search


Facebook’s experiment into whether emotion is transmitted and passed on via status updates on the social network has caused a huge stir this week, but one has to wonder whether it was in any way necessary to conduct an experiment with such predictable results, such understandable and predictable fallout?

Problematic for many reasons, including not least the potential breach of ethical and legal stipulations of the journal which published the study, or that the “research” clause appears to have been added to FB’s ToS 4 months after the emotion manipulation study.

Most puzzling of all though, is why would an organisation such as FB open themselves up to such criticism? The outcry was inevitable. The results largely predictable too, the neurology of positive and negative conversations is documented.

Surely it would have made more sense, more *social* sense for Facebook, if they really did feel that such an experiment was necessary, to test whether positive messages had a positive effect over neutral messages? Highlighting negative messages to users is always going to be less palatable, and potentially damaging, than increasing the number of positive messages.

Given the insight into the neurological effects of positive and negative conversations, perhaps the lingering sentiment toward Facebook won’t be as ephemeral as they might hope?

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