Over a million people changed their facebook profile pictures to a rainbow filter in support of gay marriage.
According to Daily Mail, this tool was actually Facebook’s way of performing psychological testing on their users.
MIT network scientist Cesar Hidalgo wrote on Facebook yesterday. “The question is, how long will it take for people to change their profile pictures back to normal.”
Experts say that by setting up the tool, Facebook was able to get an unprecedented insight on how to influence their users. This would not be the first time Facebook has done this. In 2013, they published a study in which they admitted to conducting research into what would influence users to change their profile picture to a red equals sign in support of gay marriage.
Suzy Moat, a Warwick Business School assistant professor of behavioral science, said that it’s normal for businesses like Facebook to conduct research studies on how to influence behavior. However, she she also acknowledged that it’s understandable that users would be upset by it.
“On the other hand, it’s extremely understandable that many people are upset that their behavior may have been manipulated for purely scientific purposes without their consent,” she said. “In particular, Facebook’s user base is so wide that everyone wonders if they were in the experiment.”
But Facebook has denied the claims. A spokesperson for the site told DailyMail.com: ‘This was not an experiment or test, but rather something that enables people to show their support of the LGBTQ community on Facebook.
‘The point of this tool is not to get information about people.’
But, as a report in the Atlantic points out, the site has long been involved in research to better see how information spreads in a social network.
For instance, in March 2013, the company published a study that looked at the factors that predicted support for marriage equality on Facebook.