Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.


Facebook manipulated users' emotions in secret study

30 June 2014, 09:05

Washington - A study detailing how Facebook secretly manipulated the news feed of about 700 000 users to study "emotional contagion" has prompted anger on social media.

For one week in 2012 Facebook tampered with the algorithm used to place posts into user news feeds to study how this affected their mood.

The study, conducted by researchers affiliated with Facebook, Cornell University, and the University of California at San Francisco, appeared in the 17 June edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The researchers wanted to see if the number of positive, or negative, words in messages they read affected whether users then posted positive or negative content in their status updates.

Indeed, after the exposure the manipulated users began to use negative or positive words in their updates depending on what they were exposed to.

Results of the study spread when the online magazine Slate and The Atlantic website wrote about it on Saturday.

"Emotional states can be transferred to others via emotional contagion, leading people to experience the same emotions without their awareness," the study authors wrote.

"These results indicate that emotions expressed by others on Facebook influence our own emotions, constituting experimental evidence for massive-scale contagion via social networks."

While other studies have used metadata to study trends, this appears to be unique because it manipulates the data to see if there is a reaction.

The study was legal according to Facebook's rules - but was it ethical?

User reactions

"#Facebook MANIPULATED USER FEEDS FOR MASSIVE PSYCH EXPERIMENT... Yeah, time to close FB acct!" read one Twitter posting.

Other tweets used words like "super disturbing," "creepy" and "evil", as well as angry expletives, to describe the experiment.

Susan Fiske, a Princeton University professor who edited the report for publication, told The Atlantic that she was concerned about the research and contacted the authors.

They in turn said that their institutional review boards approved the research "on the grounds that Facebook apparently manipulates people's News Feeds all the time".

Fiske admitted to being "a little creeped out" by the study.

Facebook told The Atlantic that they "carefully consider" their research, and have "a strong internal review process".

Facebook, the world's biggest social network, says it has more than one billion active users.



Read News24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Read more from our Users

Submitted by
Wilson Ochieng
Apologise for attack on Auditor G...

Apologise for attack on Auditor General, President Uhuru Kenyatta is told by Kisumu Senator Anyang Nyong'o. Read more...

Submitted by
Wilson Ochieng
Quit if you can't fight corruptio...

An MP has told President Uhuru Kenyatta to quit office if he cannot fight corruption. Read more...

Submitted by
Wilson Ochieng
Investigate Uhuru, Ruto for corru...

Investigate President Uhuru Kenyatta and DP William Ruto's offices over corruption, CORD leader Raila Odinga has said. Read more...

Submitted by
Victor Tinto
Its a 1 horse race to State House...

Its a 1 horse race to State House, DP William Ruto has mocked the CORD Coalition. Read more...

Submitted by
Victor Tinto
Enjoy your time left in power, We...

CORD Co Principal Moses Wetangu'la has told the Jubilee Coalition to enjoy its last few months in power before it is voted out in the 2017 elections. Read more...

Submitted by
Victor Tinto
Stop hiding in State House and sa...

ODM MP's have called on President Uhuru Kenyatta to release drought aid and to stop sitting on public funds. Read more...