Sandberg: Facebook study 'poorly communicated'

The company's No. 2 executive responds to backlash over a psychological experiment conducted on nearly 700,000 of its users.

By MSN Money Partner Jul 3, 2014 9:59AM

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg responds to questions during a news interview with Megyn Kelly on the FOX News Channel, April 9, 2014, in New York. © AP Photo/Frank Franklin IIBy R. Jai Krishna, The Wall Street Journal

Facebook's (FB) psychological experiment on nearly 700,000 unwitting users was communicated "poorly," Sheryl Sandberg, the company's No. 2 executive, said Wednesday.

The Wall Street Journal on MSN MoneyIt was the first public comment on the study by a Facebook executive since the furor erupted in social-media circles over the weekend.

"This was part of ongoing research companies do to test different products, and that was what it was; it was poorly communicated," Sandberg, Facebook's chief operating officer, said while in New Delhi. "And for that communication we apologize. We never meant to upset you."

Sandberg was in India meeting with smaller-sized businesses that advertise on Facebook. The company is working with advertisers outside the U.S. to launch campaigns that are more tailored to local markets. She was meeting with entrepreneurs and businesswomen as part of her "Lean In" campaign when she commented on the study.

The uproar centered on Facebook's one-week experiment in 2012, in which the company's data scientists enabled an algorithm to determine whether lowering the number of positive or negative posts in users' news feeds could prompt them to post more positive or negative content.

The research, published in the March issue of the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences, sparked soul-searching and questions among researchers and ethicists over the social network's ability to tweak its users' emotions.

"We take privacy and security at Facebook really seriously because that is something that allows people to share" opinions and emotions, Sandberg said.

– Reed Albergotti contributed to this article.

More from The Wall Street Journal

Jul 3, 2014 1:53PM
George Orwell wrote about this back in 1948. He was off by a few years, but everything in his novel 1984 is showing up in our society. We are a society that believes anything we hear that sounds good to us. We won't read, research, question, write, or think for ourselves anymore. I KNOW this is true because it is how I am expected to train the students in my classroom. Luckily, I do not have to succumb to the political edicts, yet. The day they come for me, you will find me in The Ministry of Love. Oh you won't. I will simply cease to exist.

If you are unfamiliar with the reference, thank you for proving my point. It's not too late to reverse the pendulum!!!
Jul 5, 2014 8:01AM

I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.

  -Albert Einstein

...Sorry Al, too late.

Jul 5, 2014 8:45AM
There has always been a simple solution to this problem. When an organization betrays your trust, stop association with that organization. Oh horror, how will I exist? If you are in such need of this level of social interaction maybe you need to get a life. Cancel your facebook account, it won't hurt.
Jul 5, 2014 10:30AM
FB is nothing but a advertising outlet built upon peoples narcissism. It is disguised as a tool to "bring people together" when all it does is open a 24 hour window to things you don't need.

All the pictures you post there become shared public property and are again, used in advertisements. It is the greatest source of free stock photos for  companies. 

why is anyone surprised they are conducting mood altering experiments when this is nothing more than the greatest money-maker of our age?
Jul 3, 2014 11:25AM
This is BS. Facebook is connected to the CIA or they would not be allowed to be an entity. I guarantee you if the truth came out about privacy, it doesn't really exist.
Jul 5, 2014 12:19PM
 You are so right.  We have created a monolith society and our students are feeling the brunt of it and enjoying it with their so called smart phones.  They are quick to jump on the bandwagon of follow the crowd no matter where they are going. The decry government intervention into their private lives but will immediately provide information on social media, sometimes information that nobody cares about, ala: pictures of what they are eating or drinking on Instagram, facebook, twitter, etc. Then they fill out forms giving everything from their birth to the present, including where they live, work or play and then the have the nerve to complain. I may have to join you one day in that new Ministry
Jul 6, 2014 12:59PM
This wasn't even a study.  It didn't learn any new information.  Who knew people around positivity would be more positive and people around negativity would be more negative?  Oh, right.  EVERYONE!!  So, learning that wasn't the goal.  Then the goal was deliberately being cruel.

And that's further driven home by their locking nearly 3/4 a million users out of their accounts while giving them no recourse and no way to even communicate to anyone who could do anything.  How could that possibly help any study?

Facebook must be paying the media to stroke their cocks on this by calling it a study and claiming the data collected was beneficial to science.  STOP REPORTING THESE LIES!! They're not paying you enough to say it was ethical.  How could they be paying you enough to tell these other lies?

im surprised they even let this info get out. if they didnt know that people would be pissed they truly are complete idiots
Jul 6, 2014 12:22AM
Wow Facebook is pissing off users news to me
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