Ethics Strike Three And Four Against Facebook In Its Creepy Mood Manipulation Study

Facebook is so out.

"Meh. Look at this neat picture of my dog!"

“Meh. Look at this neat picture of my dog!”

Ethics Strike One was the research itself, using its own, trusting users as guinea pigs in a mad scientist experiment to determine whether their moods could be manipulated by secretly managing the kind of posts they read from Facebook friends.

Ethics Strike Two was the lack of its subjects informed consent for the study, violating the basic standards of human subject research. A boilerplate user agreement that makes a vague reference to using data for “research” in no way meets the requirements of informed consent for this kind of study.

This brings us to Ethics Strike Three.  In justifying the legality and ethics of the research, Facebook’s researchers explained that leave to perform such experiments was consistent with the user agreement (See Strike Two):  “[the experiment] was consistent with Facebook’s Data Use Policy, to which all users agree prior to creating an account on Facebook, constituting informed consent for this research.” As I pointed out above and in my previous post on this topic, this isn’t informed consent as the research field and various ethics codes define it. But even if it was, this statement is a lie. Continue reading

Some Post Iowa Debate Ethics Awards

Other than the fact that both would look crazy on the cover of Newsweek, how is Humpty Dumpty like Michele Bachman?

The GOP pre-Iowa straw poll presidential debate last night earned a few ethics awards, with many more to come as we get to know these pretenders better:

Journalistic Integrity Award: Chris Wallace, Fox news anchor and questioner.

Wallace continues to bring legitimate and fair journalistic practices to his job, and gets accused of being biased anyway. Or, as in this case, (and as when he shocked Michele Bachmann by asking her directly what everyone was implying, “Are you a flake?”), conservatives who expect softballs from Fox react with indignation that an assumed ally is asking a tough question. Wallace asked Newt Gingrich about his flailing campaign organization, and Gingrich angrily called it a “gotcha” question. That’s not a “gotcha,” Newt, and you know it. When most of a candidate’s  campaign staff, those who know him  best, have indicated that they don’t think he has a chance—or perhaps shouldn’t have a chance—by jumping ship, it is fair and responsible to ask a candidate to explain. Continue reading

Custer, Gettysburg, and the Seven Enabling Virtues

Sometimes the Enabling Virtues will save an army, and sometimes they’ll get you killed.

July 3, 1863 was the date of Pickett’s Charge, when Confederate General Robert E. Lee ordered a desperate Napoleonic advance against the Union line at Gettysburg in what has come to be a cautionary tale in human bravery and military hubris. The same day marked the zenith of the career of George Armstrong Custer, the head-strong, dashing cavalry officer who would later achieve both martyrdom and infamy as the unwitting architect of the massacre known as Custer’s Last Stand.

Custer’s heroics on the decisive final day of the Battle of Gettysburg teach their own lessons, historical and ethical. Since the East Calvary Field battle has been thoroughly overshadowed by the tragedy of Pickett’s Charge, it is little known and seldom mentioned. Yet the truth is that the battle, the war, and the United States as we know it may well have been saved that day by none other than undisciplined, reckless George Armstrong Custer. Continue reading