Question

Write an academic research paper on a topic related to engineering ethics. Your paper should explore the arguments surrounding an ethical issue of your choosing. Overall your paper should:

• identify the ethical issue (background, principal issues)
• take a position and provide support for the position
• discuss existing and future solutions for addressing negative consequences

Forms of support may include the following:
• historical evidence
• quantitative evidence
• existing research on the topic
• discussion of the underlying ethical principles that inform the argument (virtue, utility, justice, rights) – applying a theoretical framework to your discussion is recommended
• discussion of the professional code of ethics applicable to the subject

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In late 2014, news broke of an experiment which had been conducted using nearly 700,000 Facebook users. The experiment involved minute changes to the emotional valence—positive or negative—of these users’ News Feed, in order to gauge whether such changes caused emotional contagion, i.e. affected their emotions in corresponding ways. And, in fact, the study did find that reducing the positive content in a user’s News Feed led to the person using fewer positive terms in subsequent communication, with the same effect observed for negative content. Unsurprisingly, the news of this deliberate and large-scale manipulation, coupled with the fact that consent had not been obtained, caused a convulsion of outrage; see Waldman (2014) for one example of many. This paper argues, however, that the salient ethical issues of manipulation and consent are in fact superficial and largely irrelevant in that they serve only to obscure much-needed consideration of the ethical dimensions of all of the emotional and psychological effects wrought by Facebook and social networks like it.
The experiment
This section presents details of the psychological experiment conducted by Facebook, leading into considerable attention, in the next section, of some of the experiment’s scientific context. That is, the experiment’s researchers were seeking to verify or refute, extend, and respond to important elements of psychological research on social interactions. And, to be clear, this is not to say that the experiment was justified or unjustified by the extent to which it produced valuable science...

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