Facebook’s 2012 psychological experiment on users has drawn staunch criticism and even a response from an independent regulator in the U.K. that will investigate the legality of the company’s practices, and now executives are speaking out.
Facebook’s chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg now says that the experiment was poorly communicated. “This was part of ongoing research companies do to test different products, and that was what it was; it was poorly communicated,” Sandberg told The Wall Street Journal. “And for that communication we apologize. We never meant to upset you.” Except, isn’t that exactly what Facebook was trying to do? It was trying to see if it could swing moods by posting specific content.
During the experiment, the results of which were published in an academic journal, Facebook showed some users primarily negative stories and others primarily positive stories to see how it affected a user’s mood. Would he or she then post negative or positive content based on what was displayed? The company did this on more than 680,000 active users without telling them, which is where the problem lies.
Sandberg reiterated that Facebook takes privacy seriously — except isn’t this more of an ethics issue?