“What Facebook and OkCupid did wasn’t just unethical. It was illegal.”
So says James Grimmelmann, a law professor at the University of Maryland who’s taking aim at the social media sites for conducting psychological research on its users without properly informing them. Now Grimmelmann is calling on Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler to force Facebook and OkCupid to stop conducting tests on Maryland residents.
Facebook created a firestorm earlier this year when it acknowledged it had published a scientific paper on mood manipulation based on a secret experiment it did with some users’ newsfeeds. The experiment, conducted in 2012, hid emotionally charged content from nearly 700,000 English-speaking users’ newsfeeds to try to learn whether emotions were contagious on the network. Turns out they are; “sadder” newsfeeds made people more likely to post sad things, and “happier” newsfeeds made people more likely to post happy things.