Mark Zukerberg
Mark Zukerberg of Facebook Reuters

Facebook's secret study that was conducted by manipulating the news feeds of thousands of users made headlines around the world in the last 48 hours.

The company's Emotional Contagion analysis, which was made public by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS) journal, faced severe backlash from Facebook users for being unethical and creepy.

Now, engineers at Facebook have issued a public statement detailing the company's intentions behind the study, and blamed the PNAS journal for the way the experiment was presented.

According to Facebook's Adam Kramer, the engineer behind the controversial study, the experiment was undertaken to determine the emotional impact of the social networking site on its users.

Kramer also goes on to state that Facebook's recent experiments showcase the company's concern for its users across the globe.

"We felt that it was important to investigate the common worry that seeing friends post positive content leads to people feeling negative or left out," says Kramer in the public statement.

"Our research sought to investigate the above claim by very minimally deprioritising a small percentage of content in News Feed (based on whether there was an emotional word in the post) for a group of people (about 0.04% of users, or 1 in 2500) for a short period (one week, in early 2012," he adds.


In the statement, Kramer says that the company is indeed concerned about people opting to avoid visiting Facebook when they are exposed to friends' news feeds having negative content. Facebook's user desertion apprehensions were not detailed in the PNAS journal.

Apparently, the end result of Facebook's controversial emotional analysis experiment indicated that users generated "one fewer emotional word" for every thousand words.

People behind the experiment have apologised to users and said that their motive was only to offer better personalised services.

"Having written and designed this experiment myself, I can tell you that our goal was never to upset anyone. I can understand why some people have concerns about it, and my co-authors and I are very sorry for the way the paper described the research and any anxiety it caused," says Kramer.

However, with Facebook having expressed its user desertion concerns, it is imperative that the company provides more personalised services to its users. The social networking giant could also look at a complete overhaul of its news feeds functionality so that users do not get to access irrelevant content.