A code of research ethics and journalist ethics apply so that people are provided with guidelines of responsible practice to ensure people are ethical and honest in their work. Although both codes don’t necessarily enforce any consequences if the guidelines aren’t followed it will undoubtedly ruin any trust and believability a person` has built in their career. Ethics are essentially moral principles which define what is right and wrong. They are considered crucial when approaching any type of research as not doing so can lead to false information and harm. By now most of us are aware that Facebook somewhat regulates our internet to target us with ads specific to our interests. I know that after I’ve been online shopping when I get on Facebook they’ll be advertising the exact same dress I was just looking at a minute ago. Although by signing up to Facebook we agree to let them monitor certain aspects of our internet usage, users who were targeted by Facebook researchers to identify their emotions in response to their newsfeed never gave consent. In 2012 Facebook manipulated 700 000 users newsfeeds to identify whether it would affect their emotions, but they did so without any ‘informed consent’.
Many researchers attacked the social networking site for these breaches, one of the Facebook researchers Adam Kramer posted a defence on Facebook insisting that they carried out the research because they “care about the emotional impact of Facebook and the people that use our product.” The aim of the research, which was to investigate whether seeing their friends post positive content leads to an individual feeling left out, is believed to be unethical because the changes to peoples newsfeeds which were designed to manipulate their emotions were out in place without their knowledge or consent.
Consent is one of the many aspects of ethics which is vital when it comes to research, and in their research Facebook breached the guidelines in the Code of Research Ethics, especially as their experimentation lead to harm. James Grimmelman, a professor of technology and law at the Univeristy of Maryland says, “If you are exposing people to something that causes changes in psychological status, that’s experimentation, this is the kind of thing which would require informed consent.”
In the research paper the only part which mentions such consent is the following: “consistent with Facebook’s Data Use Policy, to which all users agree prior to creating an account on Facebook, constituting informed consent for this research.” There is further debate whether this constitutes as sufficient informed consent. Katy Waldman, who is the world correspondent of Slate, mentions that, “Even if the study is legal, it appears to flout the ethical standards spelled out in instructions to scientists who wish to publish in PNAS. (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences)” Although Facebook may have done just enough to avoid any serious allegations they become more mistrusted by users.