Facebook: Just Be Happy … and Shut Up

Written by David Michaelis

Facebook manipulated 700,000 news feeds in a “scientific” study to gauge emotional response. Was it right? No. David Michaelis digs in.

aNewDomain.netFacebook Mark Zuckerberg — A chief ethics officer is urgently needed in Facebook headquarters. A “CEO” who can tell Facebook how not “to do evil.” The recent social experiment, in which Facebook manipulated news feeds to see if they could elicit an emotional response from users, has gone over the line. Facebook is hiding behind terms of usage terminology (per usual) in order to justify their behavior. The test saw Facebook “manipulate” the news feed of more than 700,000 users.

Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, has since issued an apology that claimed Facebook has “poorly communicated” the ongoing research.

Lab Mice

Facebook is the most powerful social media and communications entity in the world. That it could manipulate any of its 1.3 billion active users’ behavior “for science” is scary. Do they not realize that with great power comes great responsibility? There are ethical and moral imperatives that should not be crossed.

It’s not about the legal language that no one reads. We all have a Facebook, we sign the user agreement. Legally, Facebook may be safe, but not ethically. “Trust me” they always said in Hollywood — which meant, the knife in your back is coming. Trust us they say in Silicon Valley — you are not a gadget, but a human being. This certainly doesn’t say that. The dagger is in.

They promised “happiness,” but it turns out there is a science behind the happiness, and Facebook can control that science.

Science of Happiness Facebook

Image Credit: webpageFX

The North Korean government, like Facebook in some regards, is trying to manipulate their people. The goal? Making their citizens “happy.”

Through loudspeakers in every corner of his dark kingdom Kim Jong-un rules. Often his rules reflect his current mood. He executed his ethical guides months ago. Zuckerberg and his management do not have to execute anyone, have access to more people, and possibly have more effective tools of persuasion.

Facebook, of course, is not a militarized country. But it seems with a command Zuckerberg could alter the mental and emotional state of a user, which equates to roughly 1/7 of the world’s population.

Muddled Interests

Parmy Olson wrote in Forbes:

When Facebook’s experiment was billed as a ‘scientific’ one, the idea of clashing corporate interests with academic research suddenly sat very uncomfortably with users and the press.”

Kashmir Hill of Forbes said:

Facebook is the best human research lab ever. There’s no need to get experiment participants to sign pesky consent forms as they’ve already agreed to the site’s data use policy. A team of Facebook data scientists are constantly coming up with new ways to study human behavior through the social network. When the team releases papers about what it’s learned from us, we often learn surprising things about Facebook instead — such as the fact that it can keep track of the status updates we never actually post!”

If you believe Sheryl Sandberg, then you have unfortunately bought into corporate mentality and Orwellian terminology. The ethical lines between academic and commercially-driven research have been blurred by greed.

The real ambition here is to regulate your mood before you post. Predictive analytics will be used to second guess you and how you feel. Facebook is simply taking your free will away. You will not need any pills or alcohol. Facebook will take complete care of you. “TRUST ME!” Facebook says.

For aNewDomain.net, I’m David Michaelis.

Based in Australia, David Michaelis is a world-renowned international journalist and founder of Link Tv. At aNewDomain.net, he covers the global beat, focusing on politics and other international topics of note for our readers in a variety of forums. Email him at DavidMc@aNewDomain.net.