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Journal That Published Facebook’s Study Raises Ethics Concerns

The editor in chief of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the journal that recently published Facebook’s controversial research on its manipulation of users’ news feeds, is raising concerns about how Facebook collected the data.

The study was conducted by the social-media giant and co-designed by researchers at Cornell University. It involved manipulating what users saw in their news feeds to measure how the changes would affect the mood of their own posts. The study has come under fire from privacy advocates and others who said Facebook exhibited questionable ethics in conducting the experiment.

On Thursday the journal published an “expression of concern” by Inder M. Verma, its editor in chief.

“Based on the information provided by the authors, PNAS editors deemed it appropriate to publish the paper,” he wrote. “It is nevertheless a matter of concern that collection of the data by Facebook may have involved practices that were not fully consistent with the principles of obtaining informed consent and allowing participants to opt out.”

The journal added in a statement to The Washington Post that the declaration was meant to acknowledge concerns about the study, but that it does not intend to investigate further.

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