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Monday, June 29, 2015

Over the weekend, your Facebook feed probably got a whole lot more colorful as over a million people changed their profile pictures to a rainbow filter in support of gay marriage.

However, new reports reveal changing your profile picture using the “Celebrate Pride” tool may not have been the best idea…

According to Daily Mail, this tool was actually Facebook’s way of performing psychological testing on their users.

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“This is probably a Facebook experiment!” 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.

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Though Facebook has denied using the Celebrate Pride tool to probe user’s minds, it would be really easy for them to do so without telling us. A Facebook spokesman commented that the tool is “not an experiment or test – everyone sees the same thing.”

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.”

What do you think about this? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.

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