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Facebook finally apologises for secretly manipulating nearly 1m people’s accounts in huge psychology experiment

The chief operating officer of Facebook has apologised for the manipulation of 700,000 users' accounts in a controversial secret study.

Sheryl Sandberg's comments were the first from a Facebook executive since it was revealed that the social network altered users' newsfeeds to see if it had an effect on their emotions.

It was also a climb down from Tuesday's insistence that it was an experiment covered by the network's terms and conditions.

It emerged at the weekend, when the experiment's results were revealed in a paper published in a journal, that Facebook allowed researchers to manipulate the content that appeared in the main section, or news feed of about 700,000 randomly selected users during a single week in January 2012.

The data-scientists were trying to collect evidence to prove their thesis that people's moods could spread like an 'emotional contagion' depending on the type of the content that they were reading.

None of the participants in the Facebook experiments were explicitly asked for their permission, though the social network's terms of use appears to allow for the company to manipulate what appears in users' news feeds however it sees fits.

Facebook's data-use policy says the California-based company can deploy user information for 'internal operations, including troubleshooting, data analysis, testing, research and service improvement.'

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