Facebook Changes Its Research Approach After Controversial Experiment

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You'll probably recall the controversy Facebook found itself in a few months ago when it was discovered that an experiment it conducted a couple years ago manipulated people's emotions by showing them different types of content in the News Feed.

The study was called “Experimental Evidence Of Massive-Scale Emotional Contagion Through Social Networks”. More on that here.

The company announced today that it has made some changes to how it does research. It says it wants to do it in "the most responsible way". These are the basic points Facebook gives for how it intends to improve:

Guidelines: we’ve given researchers clearer guidelines. If proposed work is focused on studying particular groups or populations (such as people of a certain age) or if it relates to content that may be considered deeply personal (such as emotions) it will go through an enhanced review process before research can begin. The guidelines also require further review if the work involves a collaboration with someone in the academic community.

Review: we’ve created a panel including our most senior subject-area researchers, along with people from our engineering, research, legal, privacy and policy teams, that will review projects falling within these guidelines. This is in addition to our existing privacy cross-functional review for products and research.

Training: we’ve incorporated education on our research practices into Facebook’s six-week training program, called bootcamp, that new engineers go through, as well as training for others doing research. We’ll also include a section on research in the annual privacy and security training that is required of everyone at Facebook.

Research website: our published academic research is now available at a single location and will be updated regularly.

Along with this outline of its plans, the company expressed regret and maybe a hint of embarrassment, saying its research should have been further reviewed by more people and "more senior" people.

Image via Facebook

Chris Crum
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.

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