Facebook Reported to Have Secretly Used Member Information for Mood Experiment

September 16, 2014

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. loathing /ˈloʊ ðɪŋ/ (n.) – intense dislike or anger towards something or somebody
Example: The defective email function drew loathing among the site’s users.

2. manipulate /məˈnɪp yəˌleɪt/ (v.) – to control something to suit one’s own preference
Example: Developers can manipulate information shown on their website.

3. ponder /ˈpɒn dər/ (v.) – to think carefully and deeply about something
Example: The researchers pondered over the possible solutions to the problem.

4. contagious /kənˈteɪ dʒəs/ (adj.) – referring to something that is capable of spreading or being easily transferred
Example: Patients diagnosed with the contagious disease are now isolated.

5. in poor taste /ɪn pʊər teɪst/ (idiom) – something unacceptable and can cause anger from people
Example: His April fool’s day joke was done in poor taste.


Read the text below.
Facebook faces public loathing after reports revealed that the social networking site used some of its users for an experiment without their consent.

Several websites recently reported about a Facebook experiment that assessed the emotional responses of the users. Facebook manipulated the posts users saw on their newsfeeds to see how highly negative or highly positive posts affected the user’s mood.

Reports revealed that for a week, the study monitored the emotional responses of about 700,000 Facebook users in 2012. Researchers pondered on the possible effects of the manipulated posts.

Results showed that most of the manipulated users adapted accordingly to the type of posts they were exposed to. Most users with negative newsfeeds had more negative posts, while users with positive newsfeeds had positive status updates. The study authors said that the results prove that emotions expressed in social media can be contagious to others.

While the research may be helpful academically, many users believe that Facebook’s experiment was done in poor taste. People expressed their anger through Twitter about how Facebook unethically used its members for an experiment without asking permission.

The authors said that the research was considered legal since Facebook always controls the newsfeeds of its users, although not for an experiment. Facebook also cited that a portion in the user agreement allows the site to utilize user’s information for research purposes.

Facebook currently has about one billion members and is considered the world’s biggest social network.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         Do you agree that Facebook’s newsfeed manipulation was legal and justified? Why or why not?
·         Why do you think Facebook did not inform its users or ask permission before the experiment?

Discussion B

·         Do you still trust Facebook and social media sites after reading this article? Kindly explain.
·         Why do you think many people express emotions through social media sites?

September 16, 2014