Facebook has responded to critical feedback about its user experiments by announcing new policies that include clearer guidelines, a panel for reviewing proposed research and new training for employees.
Back in June, Facebook faced a backlash from users after researchers published a paper detailing emotional experiments the company had conducted on its users. In the study, Facebook tweaked its News Feed algorithm to show some users more negative posts in order to see how they would react. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg later apologized for the company’s poor communication regarding the project.
In a news release today, Facebook CTO Mike Schroepfer detailed the new policies in place for internal and academic research.
“We’re committed to doing research to make Facebook better, but we want to do it in the most responsible way,” he wrote.
Under the new guidelines, Facebook will require additional review for studies that involve “particular groups or populations,” “deeply personal” content (e.g., emotions), or academic collaboration.
Facebook’s new review panel includes the company’s “most senior subject-area researchers,” as well as representatives from the company’s engineering, research, legal, privacy and policy teams.
Bootcamp, Facebook’s training program for new engineers, now contains information about its research practices. A research section has also been added to Facebook’s annual company-wide privacy and security training.
Finally, Facebook has set up a public research website where interested users can review all of the company’s published academic studies.
We would have preferred to see these policies in place before Facebook started messing around with our News Feeds, but we’re at least glad to see the company taking its criticism in stride.