Facebook Experimentation by Michael Gorback MD


In 2012, hundreds of thousands of Facebook users were subjected to human experimentation without consent. Researchers manipulated users’ news feeds to see how they would react to positive or negative news streams. Users were unaware of the emotional manipulation to which they were subjected. Facebook has defended their action by pointing out a small snippet in there TOS Agreement referring to “research”. Most users probably understood this to mean passive research such as data mining.

The Helsinki Declaration on human research defines the parameters for human research. Vague generalized references to “research”, such as those in the FaceBook terms of service, are completely inadequate for informed consent.

The infliction of emotional discord on a human being for research purposes without informed consent is a violation of the Declaration, as is the lack of ethics committee oversight.

This is S.O.P. for human research. Its very strict. The paper should never have been accepted for publication in a scientific journal.

Note the following items from the Declaration, especially 23, 26, and 35:

7. Medical research is subject to ethical standards that promote and ensure respect for all human subjects and protect their health and rights.

8. While the primary purpose of medical research is to generate new knowledge, this goal can never take precedence over the rights and interests of individual research subjects.

9. It is the duty of physicians who are involved in medical research to protect the life, health, dignity, integrity, right to self-determination, privacy, and confidentiality of personal information of research subjects. The responsibility for the protection of research subjects must always rest with the physician or other health care professionals and never with the research subjects, even though they have given consent.

10. Physicians must consider the ethical, legal and regulatory norms and standards for research involving human subjects in their own countries as well as applicable international norms and standards. No national or international ethical, legal or regulatory requirement should reduce or eliminate any of the protections for research subjects set forth in this Declaration.

23. The research protocol must be submitted for consideration, comment, guidance and approval to the concerned research ethics committee before the study begins. This committee must be transparent in its functioning, must be independent of the researcher, the sponsor and any other undue influence and must be duly qualified. It must take into consideration the laws and regulations of the country or countries in which the research is to be performed as well as applicable international norms and standards but these must not be allowed to reduce or eliminate any of the protections for research subjects set forth in this Declaration.

The committee must have the right to monitor ongoing studies. The researcher must provide monitoring information to the committee, especially information about any serious adverse events. No amendment to the protocol may be made without consideration and approval by the committee. After the end of the study, the researchers must submit a final report to the committee containing a summary of the study’s findings and conclusions.

26. In medical research involving human subjects capable of giving informed consent, each potential subject must be adequately informed of the aims, methods, sources of funding, any possible conflicts of interest, institutional affiliations of the researcher, the anticipated benefits and potential risks of the study and the discomfort it may entail, post-study provisions and any other relevant aspects of the study. The potential subject must be informed of the right to refuse to participate in the study or to withdraw consent to participate at any time without reprisal. Special attention should be given to the specific information needs of individual potential subjects as well as to the methods used to deliver the information.

After ensuring that the potential subject has understood the information, the physician or another appropriately qualified individual must then seek the potential subject’s freely-given informed consent, preferably in writing. If the consent cannot be expressed in writing, the non-written consent must be formally documented and witnessed.

All medical research subjects should be given the option of being informed about the general outcome and results of the study.

35. Every research study involving human subjects must be registered in a publicly accessible database before recruitment of the first subject.

This is a gross human rights violation and the responsible parties should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law for illicit human experimentation.

Douglas Farrago MD

Douglas Farrago MD is a full-time practicing family doc in Forest, Va. He started Forest Direct Primary Care where he takes no insurance and bills patients a monthly fee. He is board certified in the specialty of Family Practice. He is the inventor of a product called the Knee Saver which is currently in the Baseball Hall of Fame. The Knee Saver and its knock-offs are worn by many major league baseball catchers. He is also the inventor of the CryoHelmet used by athletes for head injuries as well as migraine sufferers. Dr. Farrago is the author of four books, two of which are the top two most popular DPC books. From 2001 – 2011, Dr. Farrago was the editor and creator of the Placebo Journal which ran for 10 full years. Described as the Mad Magazine for doctors, he and the Placebo Journal were featured in the Washington Post, US News and World Report, the AP, and the NY Times. Dr. Farrago is also the editor of the blog Authentic Medicine which was born out of concern about where the direction of healthcare is heading and the belief that the wrong people are in charge. This blog has been going daily for more than 15 years Article about Dr. Farrago in Doximity Email Dr. Farrago – [email protected] 

  3 comments for “Facebook Experimentation by Michael Gorback MD

  1. GHD
    July 9, 2014 at 3:29 pm

    I am sensing a little tongue in cheek here. This sort of experimenting goes on all the time. Say I have a product for sale–on the internet. I use two websites, one with photos and one without. I then see how much I sell on each. A similar experiment in my opinion which would not need consent nor would be covered by this protocol.

  2. DrBonz
    July 5, 2014 at 1:21 pm

    How long until we see some legal group take on the class action suit, going after Facebook, settling for multimillions of dollars, and taking at least half of those multimillions and dividing up the rest between the BILLIONS of Facebook users thus earning multimillions for themselves and pennies for we who have been “harmed”? Wait for it…….

  3. Sharon
    July 5, 2014 at 11:52 am

    Another reason I don’t do social media.

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