This might be the reason Facebook doesn't have a dislike button.
The social network has been conducting secret experiments on us.
What sounds like something from a work of fiction is something real you can read in a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which explains how and why Facebook used nearly 700,000 news feeds and manipulated them in the name of research to study "emotional contagion through social networks."
It only takes a quick search, not science, to hypothesize how this revelation is making people feel: Used.
What exactly did the researchers do to upset so many people? They tweaked the algorithm that surfaces content into the News Feed to change the amount of positive and negative content. Then they tested whether those changes would result in changes to what users posted. So did seeing more or less happy or sad content ultimately change your sharing habits and your mood?
The content they were seeing was still content from their friends, so they likely would never have noticed they were being fed a certain type of content, whether happy, neutral or sad.
Ethical? Up for debate.
Legal? Certainly seems that way.
According to the terms of service you agree to and probably don't read: "in addition to helping people see and find things that you do and share, we may use the information we receive about you ... for internal operations, including troubleshooting, data analysis, testing, research and service improvement."
On Sunday, Adam Kramer, Facebook data scientist and co-author of the study, responded in a Facebook post. "Having written and designed this experiment myself, I can tell you that our goal was never to upset anyone," Kramer wrote.
At the same time, Kramer stresses that only .04 percent of users were affected. And that this happened two years ago and only for a week.
But Kramer goes on to say that while the scientific results were useful, the end result may not have justified the means.
"In hindsight, the research benefits of the paper may not have justified all of this anxiety," he writes.
And in an interesting twist, comments under Kramer's post were split between appreciative and appalled, but even after learning about the manipulation, people were still asking permission to share the public post with their friends.
One user wrote: "is it ok if we share with others?"
To which Kramer replied, "go for it. This post is Facebook's statement on the matter."
Read the whole statement below:Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun