During the week of January 11 to January 18, 2012, Facebook's
) Data Science Team manipulated
the emotions of 689,003 users
by classifying certain posts as happy or sad and then tilting the
amount of happy or sad posts that users saw in the their
newsfeeds so that they could study whether users responded with
similarly happy or sad posts. They concluded that yes, people
did. They described the discovery as "evidence of massive-scale
emotional contagion through social networks." Users, and some in
the media have responded negatively to the idea of being
experimented on by Facebook, but every user involved accepted
Data Use Policy
, which seems to give Facebook the right to manipulate and
experiment however it pleases. Minors were not excluded from the
study, nor were users suffering from depression, post-traumatic
stress disorder, leprosy… No one
, in other words.
Here's a fair question: how big a deal is this?
That's not a question I'm inclined to try to answer, though it
is beyond doubt that the story is proving highly resonant. Though
the news broke five days ago, there seem to be as many stories
and opinion pieces about it today as on any day yet. Also, the
Electronic Privacy Information Center announced today that it had
filed an FTC complaint against Facebook over the issue.
Here's another fair question: what's the worst apology every
given by a corporate executive?
Was it this, from Yoichiro Kaizaki of Bridgestone/Firestone,
who, after being forced to recall 6.5 million tires that had been
blamed for up to 250 deaths and 3,000 injuries, said, "I
apologize to all shareholders for making you worried."
Or was it this more recent, career killing apology from Tony
Hayward, CEO of BP, who said, following the explosion of the
Deepwater Horizon, "I'm sorry. We're sorry for the massive
disruption it's caused their lives. There's no one who wants this
over more than I do. I'd like my life back."
Or perhaps this contemporary gem from Chip Wilson, founder of
Lululemon, who found himself needing to apologize for insinuating
the problem of transparency in some Lululemon yoga pants was
caused by the bodies of certain women, (you know the ones…). In
addition to his utter failure to apologize to the women in
question, this one is memorable for the scowl, the body language,
and sharp inhalations of breath that seem to indicate not merely
the absence of regret, but the presence of barely concealed rage.
(Enough of my chatter. Either you watch this, or you just can't
Clearly, the competition in this category is fierce. Still, I
believe we may have a new champion. Read on…
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