Facebook on Thursday announced a plan aimed at better controlling the research methods in the wake of an outcry by members who felt manipulated by a secret study into how posts affect moods. The world's biggest social network announced a new framework that covers both internal work and research that might be published.
Facebook has given researchers clearer guidelines. If proposed work is focused on studying particular groups or populations (such as people of a certain age) or if it relates to content that may be considered deeply personal (such as emotions) it will go through a review process before research can begin. The guidelines also require further review if the work involves a collaboration with someone in the academic community.
Facebook also created a panel including its most senior subject-area researchers, along with people from its engineering, research, legal, privacy and policy teams, that will review projects falling within these guidelines.
The social network also incorporated education on its research practices into Facebook’s six-week training program, called bootcamp, that new engineers go through, as well as training for others doing research.
Last but not least, Facebook's published academic research is now available at a single location and will be updated regularly.
"We're committed to doing research to make Facebook better, but we want to do it in the most responsible way," chief technology officer Mike Schroepfer said in a blog post.
In July, a scientific journal that published the controversial Facebook experiment on mood manipulation said that it was concerned that the company did not follow scientific ethics and principles of informed consent.
"Although this subject matter was important to research, we were unprepared for the reaction the paper received when it was published and have taken to heart the comments and criticism," Schroepfer said. "It is clear now that there are things we should have done differently."
Facebook's move to win back trust came just a day after it vowed to ease its "real names" policy that prompted drag queen performers to quit the social network and sparked wider protests in the gay community and beyond.