I opened my Facebook page last weekend to find a story that was trending all over social media: Facebook had published a study at the University of California, that claimed that they manipulated users’ emotions by inserting posts into a user’s news feed that would elicit a “contagious” positive or negative emotion. The published study states that they changed the news feeds delivered to almost 700,000 people for a week. None of which gave their consent to be part of this study. Facebook’s excuse and I quote: “We do research to improve our services…”
Facebook and the Internet are buzzing with outrage at the prospect of privacy violations. Users from all walks of life expressed their deep concern at being passed off as a lab rat for the betterment of Facebook’s services.Should Facebook be manipulating our emotions? How do you feel about this?
Studies like this one benefit social media marketers like myself. By capturing sentiment from users, we get a better feel for what our customers/clients want and need, therefore we are able to provide them with relevant information rather than useless clutter. However, I do believe that people should the have ability to choose if they want to be part of a study or a research program. Surreptitiously benefiting from unsuspecting users is patently unfair and not the best way to build confidence in the platform or in social media.
The advertising industry walks a fine line between trust and mistrust and we have to be careful how we use or manipulate information. As representatives of many brands, it is important that we do not lose touch with the fact that part of what sells a product or service is the trust and comfort zone built up from engagement and familiarity. Users that tend to purchase from Facebook want to feel a “close” connection to the brand and to the friends that recommend it. Violating their privacy and subjecting them to undisclosed research papers for the betterment of the platform’s services is not, in my opinion, the way to go about it!
In conclusion Facebook and other social media platforms need to do a better job with disclosing these practices. They have millions, correction – billions of people to answer to.
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