Facebook’s recently disclosed experiment to successfully manipulate the emotions of almost 700,000 users has been linked to a Department of Defense initiative designed to model massive civil unrest across the world.
Facebook data scientist Adam Kramer ran the “emotion manipulation” study to test whether or not emotions were contagious across users on the social media platform over the course of a week in January 2012.
The recently published study detailing the experiment explains how Kramer and two other researchers from the University of California and Cornell were able to successfully alter users’ moods positively or negatively by curating the content in their News Feeds to highlight uplifting or depressing content.
A host of ethical and legal questions have been raised in the wake of the disclosure, along with a collection of new details, including the fact that Cornell University researcher Jeffrey T. Hancock received DOD funding for a related study called “Cornell: Modeling Discourse and Social Dynamics in Authoritarian Regimes.”
The project is part of DOD’s Minerva Initiative, which provides funding to universities to model the multiple factors that influence global civil unrest. Hancock’s study in particular includes models depicting the spread of beliefs and compares it to disease.
Cornell is currently receiving funds for another project titled “Tracking Critical-Mass Outbreaks in Social Contagions.”
“This proposal focuses on the analysis and empirical modeling of the dynamics of social movement mobilization and contagions,” the project description reads. “For each dataset, they propose to use information retrieval and sentiment analysis methods to identify individuals mobilized in a social contagion and when they become mobilized.”
As SCG News points out, Facebook along with some of Silicon Valley’s major players including Google, Microsoft, Apple and others knew about and cooperated with the National Security Agency’s massive electronic surveillance PRISM program, which swept up bulk data on countless Americans.
The Minerva Initiative also draws parallels to CIA-funded technology designed to track and model the way opinions spread on social networks, and the State Department’s “ZunZuneo” Cuban Twitter project — an alleged attempt to stir up social unrest against the Castro regime.