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Facebook To Pull Back On Research Following Controversial Mood Study

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Facebook To Pull Back On Research Following Controversial Mood Study
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Today, in a response to negative feedback over the company’s controversial mood study, Facebook revealed its plans to change the way research is conducted by the company going forward.

Mike Schroepfer, Chief Technology Officer at Facebook, says the company is still committed to conducting research to make its service better, but they want to be more responsible about it.

Schroepfer explains why Facebook’s controversial study was conducted in the first place:

In 2011, there were studies suggesting that when people saw positive posts from friends on Facebook, it made them feel bad. We thought it was important to look into this, to see if this assertion was valid and to see if there was anything we should change about Facebook. Earlier this year, our own research was published, indicating that people respond positively to positive posts from their friends.

Schroepfer admits the company was not prepared for the backlash that followed when their research was published and “have taken to heart the comments and criticism.” He goes on to admit that Facebook should have done things differently, and maybe should have considered non-experimental ways to conduct the research.

The study itself was not the only thing that rubbed people the wrong way, as Schroepfer concedes that Facebook did not adequately explain why they did it and how exactly the research was conducted.

Evidently, the company has learned from its recent mistake. Facebook reveals that over the past three months they have been taking a closer look at how they conduct research. That introspection has led to a new framework that covers how research is conducted by the company.

Facebook details some of the key aspects of its new framework:

  • Guidelines: If proposed work is focused on studying particular groups or populations (such as people of a certain age) or if it relates to content that may be considered deeply personal (such as emotions) it will go through an enhanced review process before research can begin.
  • Review: Facebook has created a panel that will review projects falling within these guidelines.
  • Training: Facebook has ncorporated education on its research practices into the company’s six-week training program that new engineers go through.
  • Research website: Facebook’s published academic research is now available at a single location and will be updated regularly.

Schroepfer reiterates that the company still strongly believes in research, and will continue to learn how to do it in ways that honors the trust of its users.

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Matt Southern

Lead News Writer at Search Engine Journal

Matt Southern has been the lead news writer at Search Engine Journal since 2013. With a degree in communications, Matt ... [Read full bio]

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