Did Facebook illegally try to depress users?

Facebook manipulationI learned today that Facebook is under an FCC consent decree that will last 20 years (until 2032) to protect user’s privacy. Also that privacy advocacy group EPIC has filed a formal complaint against Facebook for violating it. Facebook recently attempted to influence the mood of 700,000 users by filtering posts in their News Feeds to show either more good or more bad news, and then monitored individual users’ posts for words known to reflect emotional state. This was a research project that involved Cornell University but users were not informed that it was taking place.

Scientist Jaron Lanier in his New York Times Op-Ed piece, says social network researchers must do better and cautions that depression can lead to suicide so inducing it without consent and screening procedures is a very bad idea:

It is unimaginable that a pharmaceutical firm would be allowed to randomly, secretly sneak an experimental drug, no matter how mild, into the drinks of hundreds of thousands of people, just to see what happens, without ever telling those people.

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