Facebook has managed to avoid the negative publicity that many multinational companies experience as they expand. However, the company was accused of running an experiment that involved quietly manipulating the emotions of some of its users through the content of Facebook’s news feeds. The experiment was conducted in 2012 and it sought to evaluate how Facebook users would react when they saw either too many positive or negative posts. The idea behind the experiment was that people who viewed too many positive posts could feel jealous and hate themselves for their own failures. Although the experiment was conducted without the knowledge of many Facebook users and the public, it raised many questions about the company’s ethics. According to Britten (par. 2), scientists should not conduct psychological experiments on people without their consent. It is important to note that psychological experiments meant to create negative feelings in individuals are very dangerous.
Since the Facebook researchers expected some of their posts to arouse negative feelings in the readers, they directly exposed the readers to physical and psychological harm. For example, a Facebook user could become annoyed with the posts and decide to attack other people to reduce the anger generated by Facebook posts. However, one Facebook employee addressed the issue by arguing that the experiment was statistically minimal and did not have a great impact on the affected Facebook users. Furthermore, people realized about the Facebook experiment only after the company published its findings in a scientific journal.
I believe that Facebook’s action was wrong because it exposed the company’s customers to unnecessary mental and physical danger through their secret experiment. Whenever a company that pretends to observe ethical practices is caught up in a scandal such as the one Facebook was found, the customers are left with many unanswered questions. For example, how many other secret experiments have the company conducted in the past without telling its customers? Does the company really care about the welfare of its customers?
Brusten, Joshua. Facebook’s Emotional Manipulation Test Was Unethical – and So Is the Rest of Social Media. 2014.