After the strong backlash Facebook received for its “emotional contagion” study published in June this year, the social networking giant announced changes to its research framework last week.
The firm Facebook said the huge psychological experiment it secretly conducted on its users should have been “done differently” and announced a new set of guidelines for how it will approach future research studies.
The statement, authored by chief technical officer Mike Schroepfer, says any research that involves “content that may be considered deeply personal” will have to go through an enhanced review process with a panel involving senior subject area researchers, and experts in the field.
In a blog post Schroepfer said the company had been “unprepared” for the negative reactions it received when it published the results of an experiment in June.
Facebook published the results of a 2012 study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Unbeknown to users, Facebook had tampered with the news feeds of nearly 700,000 people, showing them an abnormally low number of either positive or negative posts. The experiment aimed to determine whether the company could alter the emotional state of its users.
News of the research sparked outrage from people who felt manipulated by the company.
A review panel consisting of engineering, research, legal, privacy and policy teams will assess projects falling within these guidelines. Research practices have been added to Facebook’s six-week training “bootcamp” and the company’s academic research will be available for public scrutiny at a single location and regularly updated.
“We believe in research, because it helps us build a better Facebook. Like most companies today, our products are built based on extensive research, experimentation and testing,” said Schroepfer. “We want to do this research in a way that honours the trust you put in us by using Facebook every day,” said.