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Facebook refuses to deny it made children cry

James Temperton
1 Jul 2014
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Facebook mood manipulation study may have been carried out on children

Facebook has hit back at the barrage of criticism of its controversial user study but refused to deny fresh allegations that it didn't filter children out of its research.

The social network manipulated the news feeds of 689,003 users in an attempt to see if it could change people's moods as part of a top-secret study. But when asked if it conducted the research on teenage Facebook users the company refused to comment.

Facebook has also been accused of carrying out the research without user consent, with some suggesting it only updated its terms and conditions after the research had been done. Facebook said such claims were "complete fiction".

"When someone signs up for Facebook, we’ve always asked permission to use their information to provide and enhance the services we offer," a spokesperson for the company said.

"Companies that want to improve their services use the information their customers provide, whether or not their privacy policy uses the word 'research' or not."

There has been widespread outrage of Facebook's user research which involved the social network manipulating people's newsfeeds to show fewer happy or sad updates.

Facebook claimed that the research proved that moods could be changed by things other people posted online. When users saw more positive posts they too posted positive updates, when more negative posts were seen the opposite was true.

Adam Kramer, one of the people who worked on the project, made a public apology and also admitted that the research had revealed very little:

"The actual impact on people in the experiment was the minimal amount to statistically detect it - the result was that people produced an average of one fewer emotional word, per thousand words, over the following week," he explained.

Kramer went on to apologise for the concern the research had caused:

"In hindsight, the research benefits of the paper may not have justified all of this anxiety."

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