Guest post by Liza Persson.
Recently Facebook conducted an experimental study exploring online “emotional contagion”; the emotional bias or “tone” (negative or positive) of the content of what people see online and whether it affects the emotional “tone” of content they create online afterwards. Emotional bias or tone of content was inferred using an algorithm developed for this purpose, which in itself is a good tool for analyzing content (Kramer, Guillory, & Hancock, 2014).
What Facebook was doing was not psychology or science in any other area though. Facebook violated procedures and principles in regard to conducting research scientifically. It didn’t live up to the ethical safeguards of protecting those participating in the study, although it did get consent via its terms and services policy which is probably sufficient enough to protect itself in the case of lawsuits (American Psychological Association, 2010). The goal of raising ad revenue is not the rationale for scientific research; serving the good of humanity is (Riley, 2014; Nisen, 2014).