Did Facebook’s unethical research on humans result in suicides?

Dangerous Risk Adrenaline Suicide by Fear of Falling 

Open letter to Mark Zuckerberg: you owe us one hell of an explanation
[Via Scholars and Rogues | Progressive Culture]

As the title of this post indicates, you owe us one hell of an explanation. Indulge me, if you will.

As you are undoubtedly aware, your company, Facebook, recently had a scientific study published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS). I would naturally assume, social media being your element, that you are aware of a degree of outcry about the ethical lapses that appear evident in your study’s methodology. I doubt you registered my own outrage, so ICYMI, here it is.


The question: In a group of over 600,000 people, what are the chances that someone in the throes of depression was manipulated by Facebook in a way that resulted in suicide?

How many people were possibly harmed by the manipulations Facebook used? How many minors? Did Facebook even consider the possibility?

Who really cares? Certainly not Facebook. Facebook is a corporation that can do unethical things that harm its customers, as long as those things are legal.

But PNAS, as a reputable science journal, should have cared and should have asked the questions. It should not have published this research based on the unethical treatment of human subjects.

As another has written:

Also, there are heads at PNAS that need rolling. As in, first thing tomorrow morning, if not sooner. Human subjects research guidelines can be an unholy pain, but they exist for a reason. How this study got past their reviewers is a mystery of the first order.

I imagine that Susan T. Fiske, the PNAS editor, may have a full inbox on Monday.