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

This just in
April 17, 2015
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the most prolific scorer in NBA history, underwent successful quadruple-bypass surgery in Los Angeles, according to a statement released Friday by UCLA Health. Abdul-Jabbar had the procedure done Thursday at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center after being admitted there with cardiovascular disease earlier this week.

Abdul-Jabbar is the NBA's all-time leading scorer and is most known for his 14 seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers during the "Showtime" era. In his 20 years in the NBA, Abdul-Jabbar won six championships and was named league MVP six times. He is expected to make a full recovery. Kimberly Alters

Only in America
April 17, 2015
iStock

A San Diego man trying to board a bus in his wheelchair was stripped of his transit pass because he didn't have proper "proof" of his disability. A transit cop told Joey Canales, 31, that he wasn't carrying the proper paperwork and confiscated the pass. "My disability is not hidden," Canales told the officer, who also issued him a ticket. The Week Staff

2016 Watch
April 17, 2015
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

On Friday at 6 p.m., former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee will appear on Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier, where he's expected to lay out details of his future announcement about whether he'll run for president. Baier has been interviewing potential candidates in his series The Presidential Contenders: 2016.

Speaking with reporters before heading to New Hampshire this weekend to join several fellow potential and confirmed GOP candidates, Huckabee was predictably cryptic. "I will at least give people an understanding of when there will be an announcement and where," he said.

In January, Huckabee ended his own show on Fox News to explore a second shot at the White House — he won the Iowa GOP caucuses in 2008. Earlier this week, he also stated his nationally broadcast radio show would end in May. Stephanie Talmadge

This just in
April 17, 2015
iStock

The merger between Comcast and Time Warner, America's first- and second-largest cable providers, may not be so inevitable after all. The Department of Justice's antitrust lawyers are reportedly considering blocking the merger, sources told Bloomberg, for fear that "consumers would be harmed" by Comcast's $45.2 billion purchase of Time Warner Cable, which would create a nationwide cable giant. 

Officials at the FCC's antitrust division, who are also reviewing the deal, reportedly "aren't negotiating" with Comcast about ways to fix the deal to prevent it from falling apart.

In light of these details, Comcast issued a statement saying there is "no basis" for a federal lawsuit to stop the merger, and maintained that the acquisition would result in "significant consumer benefits," like faster internet speeds, better video quality, and cost savings. Meghan DeMaria

Numbers don't lie
April 17, 2015

A new Labor Department report has revealed that most U.S. workers would have been better off in 1972.

The report found that weekly wages in 1972 for most U.S. employees were about $811 in today's dollars. This past March, U.S. workers averaged around $703 per week.

The Labor Department's report looked at average weekly earnings for production and "non-supervisory employees," which account for the majority of the U.S. workforce, The Wall Street Journal reports. For those workers, real average weekly earnings fell 0.4 percent from February to March.

Inflation-adjusted hourly and weekly earnings increased by 2.3 percent, compared with a year earlier, but the Journal notes that the recent spike in real average earnings is "largely due to low inflation, rather than surging paychecks." Meghan DeMaria

This just in
April 17, 2015
Karim Mohsen/Newsmakers

Iraqi forces have killed Ezzat Ibrahim al-Douri, the former deputy of Saddam Hussein, government officials reported to The Associated Press on Friday.

Al-Douri has been declared dead or captured before, but Reuters notes that Iraqi officials released images of a body with red hair like al-Douri's, and said they have begun DNA tests to confirm the death. Officials said they believe al-Douri was killed during a joint operation between Iraqi troops and Shiite militias near Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit, which Iraq took back from Islamic State militants earlier in April.

Depicted as the "king of clubs" in a U.S.-issued deck of playing cards used to help troops identify key regime fugitives, al-Douri helped the Baath party plot its 1968 coup, and then served as vice president to Hussein until the U.S.-led invasion that toppled the regime, in 2003.  Sarah Eberspacher

For those who have everything
April 17, 2015
(Courtesy Photo)

If you're the owner of multiple cats — and one's a food bully — the SureFeed Microchip Pet Feeder ($150) "will make you purr as loudly as the gadget's whirring motors," says Jonathan Margolis at How To Spend It. The cover won't open until a sensor detects the microchip that's embedded under the correct cat's skin or on a collar-worn tag. The cover closes automatically when the cat moves away, keeping food safe from flies, dogs, and greedier cats. Sure, "it takes a bit of time and patience" to train a cat not to be spooked by the movement, but the "excellent" manual "makes light work of it." The Week Staff

See More Speed Reads