The ethics of making people sadder (or how to write attention getting copy!)*

Last Update: July 09, 2014

When I opened my daily newspaper early this morning the above title immediately caught my attention and I began to read the article with avid interest!


Ethics?

The article raised questions about whether Facebook behaved unethically when it conducted a clandestine experiment without informing or obtaining permission from its 1.2 Billion + users. The kind of study they initiated is described as a form of "sadness induction", deliberately manipulating its users (maybe even be some of our Wealthy Affiliates !)

I have always been fairly critical of Facebook as I do regard their particular brand of social engineering as sneaky and underhand in the extreme! In other words "proof positive", not just a crank perception, that the behemoth has no ethical basis on which it operates!

Counter intuitive stance?

Lest I be dismissed as a crank or labelled as an out and out hypocrite I must immediately confess upfront, that I actually do use Facebook....(more as a convenient channel) to keep in contact with a small circle of “friends” and family whom I like to think of as "real" people ... you know, the kind one usually interacts with in the physical world, across a dinner table etc. Anyway I’m sure the shadowy figures at the helm of FB would probably find the few messages I post on their platform to be mundane and mostly boring…yay for the rebels and freedom fighters amongst us , way to go!

My fascination with Facebook (pun intended) began fairly early during the giddy “freedom” days of the internet and is partly derived from the old adage : “Keep your friends close, but your enemies even closer!” Perhaps we need to unite and hold a global “tea party” to remind ourselves what digital freedom really means!

Compromise or betrayal?

As I write this I am also acutely aware of the fact that I am using a proprietary piece of software to draft this blog (mainly for the spell checker) before transferring it to WA and I’m sure Richard Stallman the founder of the Software Freedom Foundation would not approve of my allowing myself to be “digitally handcuffed in this way! Sorry Richard, my hands may be restricted and sullied but I am contrite of heart and have not abandoned the cause!

Big brother is watching!

Its open to debate, whether the Facebook experiment created suicides but the article gives, in my opinion.,a reasoned and masterful analysis of the FB study and contends amongst other findings that the ethical failures of the study are in no way excusable, “consent from human research subjects wasn’t asked for, nor were the subjects debriefed after the fact.”Sounds mighty like the arrogant actions of “Big Brother” and the “Thought Police” in the George Orwell dystopian novel “1984”

The author of this article, Jordan Ellenberg goes on to unpack many of the related issues that the study throws up, and ends off with some telling perspectives on “emotions and physical well-being including one from social science: viz that “sad people buy more stuff”

Summing it up.

His ending paragraph sums it up expertly and succinctly:

“From the point of view of social science, making millions of people’s lives imperceptibly sadder is an ethical red flag.But for a company whose survival depends on turning ad views into money, maybe it’s just business.”

Beware fellow Wealthy Affiliates “Big Brother” is indeed watching........ he's actually not just watching, he’s manipulating as well! :-)

Read the full article here:

The Ethics of making people sadder.

Additional links

The Free Software Foundation

Free Software and Education

Nineteen Eighty Four

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Timshazz Premium
With most of the big companies in the world morally corrupt I would expect nothing less of Facebook. Don't get me started........I'm going to now channel my irritation into writing content. I think it will be more productive than a rant.
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WillingToTry Premium
Writing is good for the soul Sharyn, kind of cathartic like humour.
Few people realise that "Gulliver's Travels" by Jonathan Swift is actually a political satire and not a children's story book!
Now there's a Travel book with a difference! Looking forward to your content (its OK you are allowed to rant...I just read it in the article by Kyle: "Spam-is-a-no-no!" )
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womanlu Premium
i don't know, i think you got to look at it from all angles and then, what ever you decide will be a reflection of yourself. is what ever that is what you want to be like and want other people to think you are like. for me its personal, i was never one to follow a crowd, it has to be goood for me, we all should have a self image of our self, right.
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WillingToTry Premium
I like that fact that you consider yourself not to be a crowd follower and that you are obviously able to think widely about social issues...thanks Cindy Lu!
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dhayman Premium
Add google to the same list. There are very few ethics considerations in any of this social engineering.
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WillingToTry Premium
Hi Doug and Debbie, I agree with you guys as what you are saying is to a certain extent quite true, it all depends on whether the software being used is "proprietary" (read : you don't own it, it owns you!) or "free" as in “free speech,”
Most proprietary vendors have their own agendas, and ethics is unfortunately often at the bottom of the list! If you have time, read the additional links to see what I am getting at.......anyway you have given me an idea for my next blog....;-)
Take care, and I would like to share some more thoughts on the topic of social engineering with you! Ciao for now.
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dhayman Premium
You have to wonder what moral compass they are willing to follow in their decisions to abrogate individual rights and privacy in the name of better business or any other universal control. I have seen interviews with the CEO of google where he is asked such questions. His general answer is that their development process and their culture at google will produce the best results. Really?
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Debbi26 Premium
Everything has it's place. We must just be careful and fully aware of what we put out there.
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WillingToTry Premium
Hi Debbie, thanks for your comment and I think your reminder that we need to proceed with caution and care when using social platforms is judicious, as not all are as harmless as they may first appear.
Like it or not their agendas are often hidden and manipulative and anything but "social"

I'm not sure though, what you mean by the phrase "everything has its place" and maybe I could coax you into expanding on it? Keep well and hope to chat soon....remember you are indeed "one of a kind!"
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Debbi26 Premium
I simply meant, that there is a place for social media. It's good for internet marketing. Also, I love staying connected (and reconnecting) with my very old friends, BUT I don't put my whole life story out there either. The way I see it, if you wouldn't want it on the front page of a paper, don't put it out there for safety as well as personal reasons. ~Debbi
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WillingToTry Premium
Thanks for your response Debbi, and apologies for the previous misspelling!
Indubitably there is a place for social media, maintaining connections with friends and family etc.
If I really wanted to protect my interactions from prying eyes I would use Gnu as my operating system of choice and would opt for non-proprietary social networking platforms such as Diaspora, Gnu Social and pump.io which are all endorsed by the FSF (being less vulnerable to the hacking activities of cyber criminals)
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Debbi26 Premium
LOL. Haven't seen the word indubitably in a LONG time. Memories......
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Trialynn Premium
More like the LACK of ETHICS of making people sadder!
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WillingToTry Premium
Hi Terea,

Yep, ethical behaviour is certainly a rare occurrence nowadays and the lack of it contributes to a rather sad planet I'm afraid...perhaps our mission is not only to help one another, but to restore our values and respect the dignity of others by practicing honesty and truthfulness in all our dealings with one another.
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