While a lot has been said about Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) using its users’ data to earn revenues, the social media platform might have hit a new low by illegally manipulating the moods of its human test subjects of Maryland. In an article on The Atlantic, Robinson Meyer explores how Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB)’s study was in fact an illegal experiment.
Meyer described in his article that according to the two law professors of University of Maryland, James Grimmelmann and Leslie Meltzer Henry, Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB)’s mood manipulation study was illegal. The study violated House Bill 917. There are two aspects to understanding the illegality of Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB)’s research. Firstly, understanding what the House Bill 917 entails and secondly, analyzing how Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) violated it.
According to the article, House Bill 917 essentially entails that any scientific research based on human subjects should not only involve a mere ‘yes’ from its participants but the researchers are required to give them enough information so that they know exactly what they are getting into.
Obviously, Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) didn’t provide any such notification to its subjects who were the users of its social media platform. However, Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) argues that its study was a result of product testing and as Meyer points out that ‘consumer acceptance study’ of this sort would not have to notify its subjects to the extent specified in House Bill 917.
However, Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) did publish its study in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. To this end Meyer quoted Henry as saying that, “It was not about product testing or maximizing business-oriented results for Facebook. It involved deceptively manipulating people’s emotions for the purpose of testing a scientific hypothesis.”
The Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) study that Meyer alludes to in his article involved Facebook using the content displayed on users’ newsfeed in order to manipulate their moods. While it is yet to be clarified how the legislation of other countries tackle this issue but it seems that the state of Maryland clearly forbids such actions in its legislation.
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