Facebook CTO Says They’ll Still Mess With Your Head, They’ll Just Think About It First

Still find yourself pissed off at Facebook for potentially messing with your head when it experimented on 700,000 users without their consent? Hey, it's all good, brother -- Facebook CTO Mike Schroepfer posted a set of new guidelines that will help the world's largest social network do a better job at monkeying around with your brain. Honest.

Are you lost? Let's back up a moment. Facebook published a paper this past summer revealing that it ran an "emotional contagion" experiment on hundreds of thousands of Facebook users without their knowledge or consent. In plain English, Facebook altered the feeds of certain users to contain fewer positive posts and more negative content, and vice versa. Facebook essentially played with people's emotions and found a correlation.

Image Source: Flickr (Nell Conway)

"Earlier this year, our own research was published, indicating that people respond positively to positive posts from their friends. Although this subject matter was important to research, we were unprepared for the reaction the paper received when it was published and have taken to heart the comments and criticism. It is clear now that there are things we should have done differently," Schroepfer wrote in a blog post. "For example, we should have considered other non-experimental ways to do this research."

Sounds like a revelation, though don't get too excited -- the revised guidelines indicate that Facebook may continue to study its users, it'll just try to be more responsible about it. Not like last time, but responsible for real -- Scout's honor. For example, proposed studies will go through an "enhanced review process" before experimenting on its users again.

Facebook also created a panel that includes its most senior subject-area researchers, as well as people from its engineering, research, legal, privacy, and policy teams. The panel will review proposed studies, because you know, negative press is bad for business.

"We want to do this research in a way that honors the trust you put in us by using Facebook every day. We will continue to learn and improve as we work toward this goal," Schroepfer said.