Controversy continues to surround Facebook's psychological experiment with news feeds that was implemented to determine what types of news contents get the most likes and traction in the social network. The reporting in recent days on the topic has led to a backlash against Facebook, which led to the company's Chief Operating Officer (COO) Sheryl Sandberg to speak out about the "poorly communicated" endeavor, but she didn't go as far as to apologize to users, which has led to increased scrutiny of the company.
The 2012 "mood manipulation" study included some 700,000 unsuspecting users that saw Facebook change their news feeds in order to understand what people were liking and sharing with others. While Sandberg said she was disappointed in how Facebook went about the endeavor, she failed to deliver an apology, saying instead that this is what companies are doing currently and she sees nothing wrong with it, just the communication with users.
"This was part of ongoing research companies do to test different products, and that was what it was; it was poorly communicated," Sandberg, Facebook's chief operating officer, told the Wall Street Journal while travelling in New Delhi. "And for that communication we apologize. We never meant to upset you."
It is the first public statement on the matter from the social network since the controversy erupted in late June and put much media attention on Facebook's marketing side of the platform. But Sandberg seemed unconcerned with the criticism against the company.
The Facebook study saw researchers manipulating hundreds of thousands of users news feeds, which skewed certain content to be "more positive or negative" than what users were normally seeing on their feed. The goal was to change how users' moods were, which Facebook could then take to potential advertisers in order to determine what content they should be pushing.
This has led to frustration by users and observers who say Facebook's manipulation of a private news feed is unethical and not appropriate, although Sandberg disagrees. Many experts believe the COO's recent comments will do little to lessen the controversy surrounding the study and believe that more investigations into how Facebook curtails information on users' accounts is needed.
But since the controversy has erupted, Facebook has changed its way of dealing with researching its users and has said that it will be more forthcoming in communicating to its billion person base what they are doing and how the information they garner from users is developed and used by the social network.