Facebook secretly manipulated the news feeds of nearly 700,000 users to understand how emotional states are transmitted over the platform. The social media giant altered the feeds to control the number of positive and negative posts users saw. This experiment, conducted in 2012, was a collaboration between Facebook’s Core Data Science Team and researchers from Cornell University and the University of California.

The study found that emotions expressed by friends on Facebook influence our own moods, constituting a form of emotional contagion. When users were exposed to fewer emotional posts in their news feed, they posted fewer emotional updates. Conversely, when they saw more emotional posts, their own posts also became more emotional.

The experiment has sparked controversy due to the lack of informed consent from users. Facebook defended the experiment, stating it was part of ongoing research to enhance user experience. Critics argue that the company crossed ethical boundaries by manipulating users’ emotions without their knowledge. Despite the backlash, the study’s findings could have significant implications for understanding how emotions spread online.

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