News

Facebooks Emotion Study Now Linked to the Military

But wait, there’s more!

Recently we wrote about how Facebook users were outraged when they found out that 689,003 users news feeds were altered to display overly positive or negative content.

Since then, more information has surfaced showing that this emotion manipulation study also has possible ties to the military. As read on Mashable, an Army spokesman stated that in 2008 Cornell University sent a funding application to the military for a similar project, but was denied.

Controversy surrounding this 2012 research project pointed to the fact that the military had helped fund this possible unethical study, which Cornell has distanced itself from. The University originally issued a press release on June the 10th which confirmed military funding involvement in the emotion manipulation study from the Army Research Office. However as the military involvement became a common topic of discussion, Cornell chose to remove this acknowledgement.

On the first of July, SCG News reported that one of the studies authors, Jeffery Hancock, had previously received funding from the Department of Defense for other research projects including “Cornell: Modeling Discourse and Social Dynamics in Authoritarian Regimes” which included this visualization program that depicts the spread of beliefs and disease.

The simple solution to solving this issue seems to be going straight to the source, but unfortunately when asked most parties declined to comment

“When asked whether Cornell University had ever sought any external funding, and in particular from the Army Research Office, a University spokesman declined to comment. The study’s authors, Hancock and Jamie Guillory, as well as a Facebook spokesperson, did not answer Mashable’s requests for comment either.” Mashable

However, Army Spokesman Wayne Hall has stated that they did not provide any funding to Cornell University and has never asked for them to make amendments to their press release.

With this information in hand, why was the Army credited in the first place? NYU Journalism Professor Jay Rosen commented on this issue through a public Facebook post:

“Why do I call this strange? Any time my work has been featured in an NYU press release, the PR officers involved show me drafts and coordinate closely with me, for the simple reason that they don’t want to mischaracterize scholarly work. So now we have to believe that Cornell’s Professor of Communication and Information Science, Jeffrey Hancock, wasn’t shown or didn’t read the press release in which he is quoted about the study’s results (weird) or he did read it but somehow failed to notice that it said his study was funded by the Army when it actually wasn’t (weirder).
I think I would notice if my university was falsely telling the world that my research was partially funded by the Pentagon… but, hey, maybe there’s an innocent and boring explanation that I am overlooking.” Facebook

The last few lines of his quote ring the most truth about this whole ordeal.

Image courtesy of SCG news

Chris Smith

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