Sen. Mark Warner Questions Facebook's 'News Feed Manipulation'

Social media giant manipulated content of nearly 700,000 users to study emotional response.

U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.); official Senate photo
U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.); official Senate photo

U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) is asking a federal agency to look into Facebook's recent experiment on 700,000 users studying the emotional impact of manipulating their news feeds.

Warner asked the Federal Trade Commission, in a letter he sent Wednesday, to explore the potential ramifications of the experiment, and to consider questions about what, if any, oversight would be appropriate for behavioral studies conducted by social media platforms.

Warner also asked for an opinion on whether best practices should be developed and enforced by the industry, or by the FTC.

“I come from the technology world, and I understand that social media companies are looking for ways to extract value from the information willingly provided by their huge customer base,” Warner said in a news release.

“I don’t know if  Facebook’s manipulation of users’ news feeds was appropriate or not," he said. "But I think many consumers were surprised to learn they had given permission by agreeing to Facebook’s terms of service. And I think the industry could benefit from a conversation about what are the appropriate rules of the road going forward.”

Warner has called for protecting consumers in the digital economy, his office points out. Yesterday, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence included Warner's amendment  to produce a comprehensive report of the threat from cyberattacks and cybercrime in their bipartisan cybersecurity package.

Earlier this year, Sen. Warner chaired a Senate Banking subcommittee hearing on the recent massive credit and debit card security breaches impacting major retailers like Target and Neiman Marcus and millions of American consumers. He also successfully pushed retailers to establish an information sharing platform to better coordinate with law enforcement agencies and partners in the financial services sector to more efficiently combat cybersecurity threats, in the wake of the Target data breach.  






Walter Hadlock July 10, 2014 at 07:36 AM
Just another reason why I avoid social media, especially Facebook. And, I agree with the above commenter. There is so much else, of much more importance going on, it would seem Senator Warner could spend his time much more productively. Also, if people do not read their terms of service, well that's their problem.
Hawa Coulibaly July 10, 2014 at 08:32 AM
That's great that Senator Warner is looking at this Facebook issue... As far as those of you questioning why he isn't targeting other issues such as immigration, remember that the senate can agree on bills based on substance and unlike congress, they aren't disagreeing with every thing just because they are still mad that they lost to Mr. Obama.
Krista Cole July 10, 2014 at 08:41 AM
I personally am happy he's looking into this. One of these days, you are going to see that your "emotional state" is up for sale. If we don't get a handle on the NSA, Facebook, companies that collect our data and sell it, we are going to one day be denied insurance based on our emotional state and may have our children taken from us. You may think that's a good thing, until you discover that software can get it "wrong" and that it's just one more injustice that can happen. We also need to call out companies that make people "sign" something and later claim they gave it to you. The terms of condition are cloudier than a day in North Carolina during hurricane season. I have had more than one thing appear on my credit card that I didn't believe I "agreed" to buy.
Hawa Coulibaly July 10, 2014 at 10:43 AM
Sally Linderman, I don't have a side. I'm an independent thinker and voter and your claims don't meet the facts. Anyway, any negative comments directed at me will be replied after 835. Thanx. PS. This massive unemployment that you refer to is due to yours truly, bush and his unnecessary wars.
Walter Hadlock July 10, 2014 at 12:34 PM
To the editor: It looks some of the earlier comments have been dropped. At the top it shows 8 comments, and there are only five that are available. What's going on?


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