Facebook reneged on a decision to take down a photo of Kim; a 9 year old Vietnamese girl who was famously photographed running away from a napalm bomb.
The photo, which depicted the girl naked, was initially taken down due to its violation of Facebook’s no-nudity policy, but was later put back up on account of the “history and global importance of this image in documenting a particular moment in time.”
This instance is not the only time that Facebook’s decision to show or hide information has led to controversy. In 2012, Facebook used algorithms to impact the information projected on people’s newsfeeds. They skewed a set of newsfeeds to show positive or negative news and then studied how users of these manipulated newsfeeds acted on Facebook. Psychology applicants should consider the ethics of such an experiment, where users are manipulated without their knowledge or consent.
PPE applicants should investigate the ‘Blue Feed, Red Feed’ project by the Wall Street Journal which explores this bias further. The Journal argues that social networks that tailor the content of their users create an ‘echo chamber’, whereby users see posts by similar people with similar opinions to them, rather than being exposed to a range of sources and perspectives.