Results published in a science journal show researchers manipulated Facebook feeds to see how the site affects users’ emotions. That’s when the backlash began.? (USA TODAY, USA NOW)
SAN FRANCISCO — British regulators are investigating a psychological experiment Facebook conducted on 700,000 unsuspecting users.
The regulators are working with data protection authorities in Ireland, headquarters of Facebook’s European operations.
They want to know if any British citizens were subjects in the controversial experiment. They are also probing whether the data gathered in the experiment maintained the anonymity of users.
The Facebook experiment was conducted for one week in 2012. It manipulated the content users saw in their news feeds to see if emotions could be spread. Some users saw positive updates from friends, others saw negative updates.
The findings were published in the March issue of the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences. and hit a nerve.
Anger over the study erupted on Facebook and other social media over the weekend.
Facebook on Wednesday issued a statement on the UK investigation.
“The study was done with appropriate protections for people’s information and we are happy to answer any questions regulators may have,” the Menlo Park, Calif., company said in the statement.
Facebook’s No. 2 executive Sheryl Sandberg apologized on Wednesday for “poorly” communicating about the experiment.
“This was part of ongoing research companies do to test different products, and that was what it was; it was poorly communicated,” Facebook’s chief operating officer said. “And for that communication we apologize. We never meant to upset you.”
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