sheryl sandberg facebook

AP/Mark Lennihan


Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg said the company's massive secret experiment designed to purposefully manipulate the emotions of its users was communicated "poorly."

Sandberg was attending a meeting with small businesses in India that advertise on Facebook, at the time.

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"This was part of ongoing research companies do to test different products, and that was what it was," Sandberg said while attending a meeting with small businesses in New Delhi that advertise on Facebook, according to The Wall Street Journal. "It was poorly communicated. And for that communication we apologize. We never meant to upset you."

These were the first public comments from any Facebook executive following the discovery of the one-week psychological study, which was conducted in 2012, submitted last October, approved in March, and published June 2.


The research compiled by Facebook's data scientists, which was published by the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences, showed that people produced more negative Facebook posts and fewer positive posts when the News Feed algorithm was tweaked to produce fewer positive posts. The scientists conversely tried reducing the number of negative posts, which in turn led to more positive posts from individuals.

Though the study reveals interesting aspects of human behavior in response to external stimuli, it was also controversial because it users were emotionally manipulated without their knowledge or consent. That said, The AV Club's William Hughes points out that by agreeing to Facebook's Data Use Policy, which you need to agree to in order to access the social network, you are actively giving permission to Facebook to include you in these kinds of psychological experiments.