Facebook ran tests on News Feed, to change emotional reactions

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In the name of science, Facebook’s data scientists and researchers begun work manipulating users’ News Feed, in order to figure out if positive or negative posts had an effect on how the user’s behaviour and mood.

The final results of these tests, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, claimed both positive and negative News Feed results change the mood of the user, but negative posts had a stronger reaction. Users were not informed on the changes, unless by chance they read the Facebook privacy policy.

This does give Facebook natural data to analyse, not misconstructed or indoctrinated data from users who would know beforehand they are being monitored. It does bring up the question, what else if Facebook doing with our data?

Apart from harvesting the data for advertising, Facebook could be doing more long-term tests on users to see their reactions. If Facebook can better understand users’ reactions to data provided, it might give them better understanding of how to offer advertising.

What Facebook did is not abhorrent as some would believe, while it might be saddening to see more posts about sad events in the News Feed, Facebook already has algorithms for sorting best friends from unknown acquaintances and filters out games, pages and groups that no longer interest the user.

Creating these new emotional environments might allow Facebook to analyse a post, take in if the post was positive or negative and then change the next updates in the Timeline accordingly. Users might start to see more contextual ads, like cab rides if they said they are going out tonight.

This is all in the future and it will take time for Facebook to implement these algorithms. The Internet appears to be in uproar over the issue, but Facebook seems lax as ever to public opinion, they were the ones that announced this public test happened, if not for the publication we would not have heard it.

Source: PNAS