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Facebook Kind Of Apologizes For Newsfeed Experiment

After an internet uproar, Facebook's COO issued an apology of sorts for the controversial study that meddled with users' emotions without consent.
Posted at 8:39 PM, Jul 02, 2014

After plenty of internet uproar, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has issued an apology for the controversial study that meddled with users' emotions without consent. (Via Flickr / World Economic Forum)

Well, kind of an apology, anyway.

SHERYL SANDBERG: "So, we clearly communicated really badly about this. In that, we really regret."
NDTV: "But would Facebook look at probably apologizing to users for the fact they went ahead with an experiment without informing them?"
SHERYL SANDBERG: "So facebook has apologized."

The social media giant's second-in-command also told The Wall Street Journal, “This was part of ongoing research companies do to test different products, and that was what it was; it was poorly communicated. ... And for that communication we apologize. We never meant to upset you.” (Via Flickr / Fortune Live Media)

So, basically, as TIME points out, Sandberg issued the typical "corporate non-apology" of "sorry if we upset you," and she really didn't lay out any plans of how they'd avoid the miscommunication in the future.

For a quick refresher, Facebook's data scientists devised a controversial social experiment for one week in 2012 and later published it in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The researchers messed with 700,000 users' News Feeds showing more positive or negative status's to see how it affected the users' emotional states. (Via Facebook)

But the study itself wasn't the big issue. It's that Facebook never asked those users for permission.

And, to no surprise, the company received a lot of unfriendly feedback.​ ITProPortal polled 84% of respondents who said they don't trust the social media company anymore. 

A principal researcher at Microsoft Research who studies ethics in social media weighed in. She tweeted the whole experiment was a "symptom of a much wider failure to think about ethics, power and consent on platforms." (Via Twitter / @Kate Crawford)

Bad PR isn't the only mess Facebook has to deal with either. 

The Financial Times reports British authorities have launched an investigation into the controversial survey and French officials are expected to follow suit.

But while the sneaky research might seem a bit Orwellian, legal experts told Mashable Facebook didn't really break any privacy laws and say the lawsuits are likely to go nowhere.