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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

April 28, 2017
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Thousands are expected to gather Saturday in Washington, D.C., on President Trump's 100th day in office for the 2017 People's Climate March. Activists are hailing the event as an opportunity to fight for climate protections the Trump administration has threatened to roll back and to push the promise of clean energy. "The climate movement will convene in D.C. to show that the election didn't cancel physics," said climate activist and author Bill McKibben, who helped organize the first iteration of the People's Climate March, which took place in New York in 2014.

The march — which happens to fall on what could be a record-breakingly hot day in D.C. — will begin in front of the Capitol at 12:30 p.m ET. Protesters are expected to make their way to the White House by 2 p.m. ET.

This will be the second science-related march in two weeks in D.C., following last weekend's March for Science, which coincided with Earth Day. Becca Stanek

April 28, 2017

Late night television is marking the occasion of President Trump's first 100 days in office by condensing four months of news into just seconds.

For a walk down memory lane, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert packed everything into 100 seconds, beginning with "inauguration" and "largest audience" and ending with "tax plan" and "harder than he thought." Some repetitions stand out — the amount of times people say "Russia," for example, is a little concerning:

The Daily Show also did its own take on Trump's first 100 days in a supercut of White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer counting from zero to 100. It is, incredibly, a lot more entertaining than it sounds:

Not to be left out of the fun, The Simpsons also brutally encapsulated Trump's first 100 days in a short clip you can watch here. Jeva Lange

April 28, 2017
Spencer Platt/Newsmakers

A group of Columbia University students draped a Ku Klux Klan hood over a statue of Thomas Jefferson and labeled the Founding Father "the epitome of white supremacy." Protesters from the group Mobilized African Diaspora said the statue of the slave-holding Founding Father "validates rape, sexual violence, and racism" and shows Columbia's "hypocrisy" in recruiting black students as "mere tokens of the university." The Week Staff

April 28, 2017
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Former President Barack Obama pointed out that the Affordable Care Act is "more popular than the current president" during a private, off-the-record event Thursday in New York City, a person in attendance told CNN.

In a recent poll, CNN/ORC found Trump has an approval rating of 44 percent, while 47 percent of voters favor ObamaCare. Only 36 percent of people said they approve of how Trump is approaching health care. Obama added that he believes Trump and the Republicans face an uphill battle changing his law, which provides health care to millions.

A new version of the GOP's replacement bill is expected to be voted on in the coming weeks. Jeva Lange

April 28, 2017

President Trump was already talking about the 2020 presidential election in his speech Friday at the National Rifle Association's annual meeting. Trump, who on Friday became the first sitting president since the 1980s to address the NRA, fired off an early warning that his potential competitors in 2020 — namely, possible Democratic contender Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) — will be nowhere near as sympathetic as he is to gun owners' Second Amendment rights. "It may be Pocahontas, remember that," Trump said, using the nickname he came up with for Warren because of her previous claims that she's part Native American. "And she is not big for the NRA, that I can tell you."

Though Trump is starting to look ahead, he certainly hasn't forgotten about that big night months ago when he won the presidency. "Sports fans said that was the single most exciting even they've ever seen," Trump said, referring to his election night upset. "That includes Super Bowls, and World Series, and boxing matches. That was an exciting evening for all of us."

Trump promised the NRA that because it "came through" for him in the election, he is "going to come through" for it. "The eight-year assault on your Second Amendment freedoms has come to a crashing end," Trump said. Becca Stanek

April 28, 2017
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White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer raised some eyebrows this week when he blamed the Trump administration's decision to hire Michael Flynn as national security adviser on former President Barack Obama — but now President Trump is passing blame off on the previous administration, too.

On Friday, Trump told Fox News' Martha MacCallum: "Just remember, [Flynn] was approved by the Obama administration at the highest level." While Trump is technically correct that Flynn served under President Obama, Obama also fired Flynn in 2014 during Defense Intelligence Agency shakeups.

In February, Flynn resigned from the Trump administration after misleading Vice President Mike Pence about his conversations with the Russian ambassador prior to being sworn in as national security adviser. Additionally, Flynn was directly told in 2014 not to take money from foreign governments without explicit permission, but he took $34,000 in December 2015 for a speaking gala concerning Russian TV and more than $500,000 for lobbying on behalf of Turkish interests ahead of the November election.

"When they say we didn't vet, well Obama I guess didn't vet, because [Flynn] was approved at the highest level of security by the Obama administration," Trump said. "So when [Flynn] came into our administration, for a short period of time, he came in, he was already approved of by the Obama administration and he had years left on that approval." In fact, Flynn's clearance was revoked when he was fired by Obama in 2014.

Retired Adm. John Kirby expressed disbelief at the Trump administration's spin of the situation: "It’s absolutely just ridiculous to me to pitch it away on the Obama administration," Kirby told CNN's Jake Tapper. "Yes, he got his clearance while President Obama was still in office, but that's one piece of a much larger process.” Jeva Lange

April 28, 2017
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It is not such an exaggeration to call the tension between the Trump administration and the press tasked to hold them accountable an all-out war. President Trump has a light trigger finger when it comes to blasting off tweets disparaging the media, and his staffers reportedly have made a game of intentionally feeding misinformation to reporters.

Never before, then, has there been such a strange and curious time for Politico to run its annual survey of the White House Press Corps. With responses from more than 60 journalists, Politico found that 68 percent believe Trump is "the most openly anti-press president in U.S. history," while 25 percent "occasionally" and 7 percent "often" heard complaints about their stories from the White House.

Perhaps most startling of all, over half of journalists covering the White House say they have been lied to by members of the administration. Seventeen percent said the lies were constant, while 46 percent said they were merely occasional. Just 12 percent said they had never been lied to. The least helpful aide for the press was counselor Kellyanne Conway, followed by chief strategist Stephen Bannon; the most helpful aides were Principal Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, followed by Press Secretary Sean Spicer.

But with all the talk of the media being the "enemy of the American people" coming from the White House, reporters remain relatively unfazed. Seventy-five percent called the accusations a distraction, while only 25 percent said they were a real threat.

See the full responses at Politico, and read The Week's editor William Falk on what it has been like covering the Trump presidency in his editor's letter here. Jeva Lange

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