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June 30, 2014
CC by: Dimitris Kalogeropoylos

On Sunday, Facebook sort of apologized for manipulating the news feeds of 689,003 randomly selected users, all for the purpose of science. For a week in January 2012, Facebook researchers secretly funneled either more positive or negative stories into the selected news feeds, then watched to see how the users reacted in their own posts.

The results, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences earlier this month, are actually pretty interesting: Moods are contagious, even over social networks. Or as the researchers put it:

When positive expressions were reduced, people produced fewer positive posts and more negative posts; when negative expressions were reduced, the opposite pattern occurred. These results indicated that emotions expressed by others on Facebook influence our own emotions, constituting experimental evidence for massive-scale contagion via social networks. [PNAS]

If the findings are interesting, the methodology is pretty controversial. Facebook argues that it has the right to do this under that terms of service agreement you didn't read when you signed up, but academic social scientists are supposed to get "informed consent" from the subjects. There was also some more gut-level revulsion at the idea of Facebook manipulating people's feelings — here's privacy activist Lauren Weinstein:

After the PNAS study began to get noticed, Adam Kramer, the Facebook employee who conducted it with two researchers from Cornell and UC San Francisco, tried to explain himself on (where else?) Facebook:

We felt that it was important to investigate the common worry that seeing friends post positive content leads to people feeling negative or left out. At the same time, we were concerned that exposure to friends' negativity might lead people to avoid visiting Facebook.... My coauthors and I are very sorry for the way the paper described the research and any anxiety it caused. [Facebook]

The world's largest social network has long shaped what its users see: When you log in, Facebook shows you about 300 of the 1,500 items that might show up on your news feed, determined by a closely guarded algorithm. "Facebook didn't do anything illegal, but they didn't do right by their customers," Gartner analyst Brian Blau tells The New York Times. Caveat emptor. Peter Weber

6:27 p.m. ET
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A new Los ­Angeles night­club will admit only good-­looking people. The club is being opened by ­BeautifulPeople​.com, an elitist dating site, and will station beauty judges at the door to decide whether nonmembers and guests can enter, CBS Los Angeles reports. A site official said members were tired of going to clubs "hoping to meet similarly beautiful people, only to spend the night wishing that the lighting was lower."

The club is set to open in West Hollywood in early 2017, and its panel of judges will include models, celebrity trainers, and "Hollywood insiders and influencers."

But don't worry, you average-looking folks: The site director promises "rare exceptions will be made on the grounds of wealth." The Week Staff

3:36 p.m. ET

Bon Iver's first album in five years dropped Friday, an offering Pitchfork reviewer Amanda Petrusich described as "an unexpected turn toward the strange and experimental." Titled 22, A Million, the album is the band's third full-length record and features 10 songs with symbol-heavy titles, like "715 - CRΣΣKS" and "21 M♢♢N WATER". The folksy guitar of Bon Iver's 2007 debut album, For Emma, Forever Ago, is largely replaced with electronic sound effects on the new album, which makes for what NPR described as "surprising turns and richly contrasting elements."

So far, the reviews are largely positive. Consequence of Sound applauded the music's "vision and beauty" and called the album a "sturdy and unparalleled step of confidence," while The Independent dubbed the project an "astonishing record that grapples with the infinite." Some critics, however, thought Bon Iver's talent tended to get lost amid all the album's effects and experimentation. "All of this is an attempt to make it new; all of this creates intrigue but also distance between the singer and the listener that sometimes is too great to be overcome," The Atlantic's Spencer Kornhaber wrote.

Take a listen and decide for yourself — the full album is available for streaming on Spotify, below, or at Apple Music. Becca Stanek

3:02 p.m. ET
Scott Olson/Getty Images

The Commission on Presidential Debates announced Friday that there were "issues" with Donald Trump's microphone at Monday's debate. "Regarding the first debate, there were issues regarding Donald Trump's audio that affected the sound level in the debate hall," the commission wrote, without offering any additional details.

Following Monday's event, Trump had complained about his microphone, and wondered whether it had perhaps been intentionally compromised. Hillary Clinton, in turn, had knocked Trump for his comments, joking the next day that "anyone who complains about the microphone is not having a good night."

Trump and Clinton will meet again on Oct. 9, for the second presidential debate, which will be a town-hall style event. Kimberly Alters

2:46 p.m. ET
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Hillary Clinton has maintained her lead over Donald Trump in the latest Reuters/Ipsos poll, released Friday. In the poll's first iteration since the two candidates debated for the first time Monday, Clinton leads Trump 43 percent to 38 percent in a head-to-head race. When third-party candidates Gary Johnson and Jill Stein are factored in, Clinton's lead shrinks by a point, 42 percent to 38 percent.

Clinton's lead in the Reuters poll has held fairly steady all month, though it is slightly higher than the RealClearPolitics average, which shows Clinton's lead at 2.9 percent in a two-way race. Both candidates did get a bump in approval ratings, however, as 48 percent of respondents said they held a favorable view of Clinton, up from 45 percent last week. For Trump, 46 percent saw him favorably, up from 44 percent.

The Reuters poll was conducted online from Sept. 23-29 in all 50 states; there were 2,501 respondents, all considered likely voters, and there is a margin of error of 2 points. Kimberly Alters

1:49 p.m. ET

Anyone who has ever waited hours for an appointment at the Apple store will probably get a cathartic pleasure out of watching this man attack iPhones with an iron ball at a mall in Dijon, France:

The anti-iPhone crusader shouts that Apple "violated my rights and refused to refund me in accordance to the European consumer protection law," BuzzFeed reports. "I warned them, I told them 'give me my money back,' but they said no. So what happens then? This is what happens." The man was promptly arrested by mall security.

The video of the Thursday incident has gotten a lot of traction in France, already prompting a parody by a French comedy troupe: "In their version, a man goes into an iron ball store and tries to smash them with his phone," BuzzFeed writes.

Well played. Jeva Lange

1:21 p.m. ET

Hillary Clinton wanted an answer, and she got it in Donald Trump's latest campaign ad. The Republican presidential candidate's new ad, titled "Why?", starts off with a clip of Clinton's video speech last week in which she asked: "Why aren't I 50 points ahead?"

While Clinton might be stumped as to why her lead isn't ballooning, Trump, it turns out, is not. Watch the Trump campaign's response, below. Becca Stanek

1:18 p.m. ET

A cluster of more than 200 small earthquakes beneath the Salton Sea in Southern California earlier this week has scientists waiting to see if the slumbering San Andreas fault nearby could be the next to move. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that following the quake swarm at the Salton Sea on Monday and Tuesday, the likelihood of a magnitude-7 or greater earthquake being triggered is as high as 1 in 100 over the next seven days, though the odds will lower as time goes on.

But for now, local seismologists might feel their hearts racing. "When there's significant seismicity in this area of the fault, we kind of wonder if [the San Andreas] is somehow going to go active," Caltech seismologist Egill Hauksson told the Los Angeles Times. "So maybe one of those small earthquakes that's happening in the neighborhood of the fault is going to trigger it, and set off the big event."

And by big event, they mean big:

A San Andreas earthquake starting at the Salton Sea has long been a major concern for scientists. In 2008, USGS researchers simulated what would happen if a magnitude-7.8 earthquake started at the Salton Sea and then barreled up the San Andreas fault, sending shaking waves out in all directions.

By the time the San Andreas fault becomes unhinged in San Bernardino County's Cajon Pass, Interstate 15 and rail lines could be severed. Historic downtowns in the Inland Empire could be awash in fallen brick, crushing people under the weight of collapsed buildings that had never been retrofitted.

Los Angeles could feel shaking for a minute — a lifetime compared with the seven seconds felt during the 1994 Northridge earthquake. Shaking waves reach as far as Bakersfield, Oxnard, and Santa Barbara. About 1,600 fires spread across Southern California. And powerful aftershocks larger than magnitude-7 pulverize the region, sending shaking into San Diego County and into the San Gabriel Valley. [Los Angeles Times]

Scientists say major earthquakes happen in Southern California about once every 150 or 200 years; the last big quake at the Salton Sea-tip of the San Andreas fault was 330 years ago. Read the full chilling report at the Los Angeles Times. Jeva Lange

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