Facepalm
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

scary
11:58 p.m. ET
Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

On Monday, anonymous threats were made against six international flights, resulting in U.S. military jets escorting an Air France plane into New York City.

Air France Flight 22 was headed to New York's John F. Kennedy Airport when someone claimed a chemical weapon was on the plane, the FBI said, and it was cleared after it landed. While an American Airlines flight from Birmingham, England, to JFK was in the air, authorities received a threatening call regarding that flight, and the pilot was instructed to land and taxi away from the terminal, The Guardian reports. The threat was later deemed not credible and the plane was allowed to go to the terminal.

Threats were also made against a Saudi Arabian Airlines plane going to New York, a United Airlines flight from Madrid to Newark, New Jersey, and Delta planes headed to Boston from Paris and Newark from London. At 6:30 a.m. Monday morning, Maryland State Police said they received an anonymous call at the McHenry barracks threatening commercial airlines, and notified the FBI. It's possible that the calls that came later targeting the planes all came from the same source, authorities said. Catherine Garcia

wild weather
10:52 p.m. ET

Four people are confirmed dead after heavy rains hit Texas and Oklahoma over the weekend.

In Oklahoma, three people died, including a firefighter who was swept into a storm drain in Claremore during a high-water rescue on Sunday, CNN reports. In Texas, one person died in San Marcos and 12 are missing in Hays County, where 400 homes have washed away in flooding. The National Weather Service says that river and creek banks can't contain all of the rain that has fallen, and the ground is so saturated that "only an inch or two of rainfall could quickly lead to more flash flooding concerns." Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) added 24 counties to the 13 already under an emergency disaster declaration, which lets the state use resources "reasonably necessary to cope with this disaster." This week's forecast predicts more thunderstorms, high winds, hail, and tornadoes. Catherine Garcia

eruptions
9:34 p.m. ET

For the first time in 33 years, the 1.1-mile-high Wolf volcano in the Galapagos Islands erupted early Monday.

Located on Isabela Island, the volcano, the highest point in the Galapagos, is not near a populated area, Galapagos National Park said on Twitter. While the island is home to the world's only species of pink iguanas, Reuters reports, the lava is flowing down the southern face of the volcano, and the endangered iguanas live on the opposite side and are expected to be safe. The lava will likely make its way to the sea and could harm marine life, Ecuador's Geophysics Institute said, and it's possible ash will travel to populated areas of the island. Catherine Garcia

accusations
8:44 p.m. ET
Win McNamee/Getty Images

Two of B.B. King's daughters say that their father was poisoned by his business manager and personal assistant in order to hasten his death, allegations that the attorney for King's estate calls "defamatory and libelous."

The lawyer, Brent Bryson, told The Associated Press that King received 24-hour care and was monitored by medical professionals "up until the time that he peacefully passed away in his sleep" earlier this month at the age of 89. King's daughters, Karen Williams and Patty King, say that manager and estate executor LaVerne Toney and personal assistant Myron Johnson prevented family members from visiting King, and Patty King says she witnessed Johnson putting drops of an unknown substance on her father's tongue over the course of several months. The sisters had previously told a court that large sums of money were missing from King's bank accounts and that Toney hired her own relatives to work for King.

An autopsy on the late musician was performed on Sunday, and it will take up to eight weeks for the rest results to come back. "This is extremely disrespectful to B.B. King," Bryson said. "He did not want invasive medical procedures. He made the decision to return home for hospice care instead of staying in a hospital. These unfounded allegations have caused Mr. King to undergo an autopsy, which is exactly what he didn't want." Catherine Garcia

natural disasters
7:58 p.m. ET

A tornado that hit the Mexican town of Ciudad Acuna on Monday morning killed at least 13 people, while across the border in Texas, 12 people are reported missing after severe flooding.

The tornado in Ciudad Acuna, a town of 125,000 people across from Del Rio, Texas, struck as children were headed to their school buses, CBS News reports. A baby in its carrier was ripped from its mother's arms and 400 homes were destroyed, authorities said. At least 300 people are hospitalized for injuries. "There's nothing standing, not walls, not roofs," said Edgar Gonzalez, a spokesman for the Acuna city government.

In Texas, 2,000 people had to evacuate their homes during heavy rains, which hit towns along the Blanco River in the central part of the state especially hard. One man, Jonathan McComb, was hospitalized after the house where he was staying with his family and friends came off its foundation and struck a bridge as the water carried it down the river. His wife and two children are among the dozen people missing after the flooding. Catherine Garcia

settlements
7:02 p.m. ET
Ricky Rhoads/Getty Images

The city of Cleveland will announce as early as Tuesday that it has reached a settlement with the Justice Department over what the feds called a pattern of unconstitutional policing and excessive use of force, sources told The New York Times on Monday.

The details of the settlement were not disclosed, but in previous cases, the Justice Department told cities they needed to allow independent monitors to oversee the changes made inside their police departments, revise their use-of-force policies, and improve their training, the Times reports. In December, the Justice Department released a report on the Cleveland Division of Police, with investigators saying officers unnecessarily used deadly force, used excessive force against mentally ill people, inappropriately used stun guns and chemical sprays, and in one case officers kicked a black man in the head while he was handcuffed and on the ground, but did not mention using force in their report.

Over the weekend, hundreds of people protested in Cleveland after a judge on Saturday found a white police officer, Michael Brelo, not guilty of manslaughter after a 2012 incident where he climbed on the hood of a vehicle and fired several times at an unarmed black couple, Malissa Williams and Timothy Russell, sitting in their car. Catherine Garcia

This just in
3:01 p.m. ET
Olivier Douliery/Getty Images

Iraq and Iran are rejecting Defense Secretary Ash Carter's claim on Sunday that "Iraqi forces just showed no will to fight" against ISIS, which allowed the terrorist group to overtake Ramadi.

"Carter was likely given incorrect information because the situation on ground is different," Saad al-Hadithi, a spokesman for Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, told The Associated Press. "We should not judge the whole army based on one incident."

Iran's Gen. Qassim Soleimani, meanwhile, told Iran's Javan that America didn't help stop ISIS from advancing on Ramadi.

Carter made the comments on ISIS during a CNN interview. "They were not outnumbered. In fact, they vastly outnumbered the opposing force," Carter said in the interview, which aired Sunday. "That says to me, and I think to most of us, that we have an issue with the will of the Iraqis to fight ISIL and defend themselves." Meghan DeMaria

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