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Facebook Mood Experiment Outrages Techies

BEGIN TRANSCRIPT

RUSH: Have you heard about the -- unbeknownst to anybody -- mood survey that Facebook did on hundreds of thousands of its users?  Facebook messed with almost 700,000 news feeds, and they wanted to see how that would play with the moods and minds of Facebook users.  But they didn't tell any of the Facebook user base that they were conducting these tests. 

They would alter the news feeds.  They would change them in ways that they thought were designed to depress moods and elevate moods, and then they somehow were able to measure the results.  And once this was learned, there was outrage throughout the tech community.  There was outrage throughout everywhere when people found out that Facebook did this and didn't tell anybody, that they were monkeying with the content of the news feeds, all to try to artificially impact the moods of their users. 

Now, even the scientific journal that published the results, the proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, expressed its misgivings.  Now, the UK Guardian had a story about this, and they said that this official journal admitted, "Look, Facebook doesn't have to adhere to scientific principles.  They're a private company and these Facebook users have freely given their private information to Facebook.  Facebook hasn't stolen anybody's data.  Facebook hasn't invaded anybody's privacy.  Everybody on Facebook just provides everything Facebook needs to know in order to do their research and so nobody ought to be having a cow here." 

But the rub is that Facebook did not offer anybody the chance to opt out of this.  They were being surveyed, tested, examined, manipulated without their knowledge.  And the tech community is simply livid about this.  As I read the story, I have to be honest, I was hoping that one of the people reporting on this would have the same attitude about an all-oppressive government that does the same thing. 

"Facebook has seemed not to understand that the revelation of its research methods is a revelation of how the company thinks about its users," is how one of the criticisms is worded here. "Facebook has seemed not to understand that the revelation of its research --" i.e., manipulating the moods of its users "-- is a revelation of how the company thinks about its users."  And that's bad.  Facebook doesn't care. Facebook looks at these people and they manipulate. It's just very bad. It's very, very bad. It's almost as bad as the NSA spying.

So Sheryl Sandberg, who is the Chief Operating Officer, said, "We never meant to upset you." We didn't mean to hurt you.  We didn't mean to upset you. And then there's this passage from one of these little tech bloggers writing about this.  "There's something oddly myopic about a company complaining that government does things in secret, while itself considering it is perfectly at will to do the same." And Facebook has been critical of the NSA and spying. So this little tech blogger finds it hypocritical that Facebook would invade people's privacy and manipulate their moods just like NSA is spying on people for the collection of data. 

"Worse, a former Facebook data scientist, Andrew Ledvina, revealed that this research project was similar to many undertaken by the company. You wonder, therefore, whether it's appropriate for the company to muse along the likes of: 'Oh, come on, this was nothing. Stop complaining,'" which is what Facebook has essentially said.  And then, the blogger says, "At heart, Facebook is its own sort of monopoly. It's those who use it who have created that. The natural laziness --" get this, now -- "The natural laziness and sheep-like quality of humans -- and the lack of any realistic competition -- has meant that Facebook has become the world's marketplace, where everyone meets and chats, while buying their vegetables and video games." 

They can clearly see that about Facebook and be offended by it and bothered by it, but they can't see that their own government is guilty of the same thing.  It is a monopoly.  You have the natural laziness and sheep-like quality of humans, and no competition.  Government can't be competed against.  Nobody can compete against government.  That's why there's not gonna be a private health insurance market after long. 
The government has endless resources, endless money.  It can print money.  You cannot beat the government in competition.  They are a monopoly. 

But these people don't see it that way.  And, in fact, later on in the piece the little blogger calls for government regulation on Facebook.  Again, folks, I'm looking for any opening, any opportunity to teach and open people's minds.  So they look at Facebook and they see a private sector monopoly manipulating the moods and treating people like sheep and so forth, and they don't see the same thing in their government.  And these people are not the only ones. 

I mean, it's a fact of life that government just breaks everything that it tries and the same people who are victimized by government breaking something demand that government fix it. And government just keeps growing and gets bigger and becomes more incompetent and messes more things up and people keep asking the government to fix what it breaks. But yet in the private sector one of those examples and they want to put that private sector business out of business.  No tolerance whatsoever.  

END TRANSCRIPT

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