Facebook has admitted that the 2012 psychological experiment it conducted on its users without their knowledge should have been "done differently", but added that it will continue to use the platform for research.
In a blog post Thursday, Facebook CTO Mike Schroepfer said with regard to the infamous Happiness experiment that future social science research would be governed by new guidelines.
In June of this year, Facebook published the results of a 2012 study in which the social network altered the news feeds of nearly 70,000 users, showing them alternately positive or negative posts to see what emotional affect that had.
It turns out people who were shown more negative comments posted more negative comments, while viewing positive posts elicited positive comments.
Schroepfer said the company was "unprepared" for the backlash that followed. Users said they felt manipulated by Facebook.
"Let's call the Facebook experiment what it is: a symptom of a much wider failure to think about ethics, power and consent on platforms," Kate Crawford posted on Twitter.
Lauren Weinstein tweeted: "Facebook secretly experiments on users to try and make them sad. What could go wrong?"
According to Schoepfer, the company has used the criticism to inform a more rigorous standard for future experiments.
He said: "It is clear now that there are things we should have done differently. For example, we should have considered other non-experimental ways to do this research.
"The research would also have benefited from more extensive review by a wider and more senior group of people. Last, in releasing the study, we failed to communicate clearly why and how we did it."
The new guidelines states that content that "may be considered deeply personal (such as emotions)" will be reviewed before research can commence.
Someone in the academic community must be involved in the process, according to the guidelines, although Cornell University and the University of California were collaborators in Happy newsfeed debacle.
Engineers, researchers, lawyers, privacy and policy teams will together form a review panel that will determine whether or not a project follows the stated guidelines.
Facebook will hold six-week training bootcamps on research practices.
Schroepfer said: "We believe in research, because it helps us build a better Facebook. Like most companies today, our products are built based on extensive research, experimentation and testing."