Facebook

Has Facebook finally betrayed our trust?” asks Glenn Reynolds after reading this Popular Mechanics report on the company’s recent experiment on hundreds of thousands of its users.

Yes. Of course. And I’ll explain exactly how.

Facebook has been described as an internet-within-the-internet, and the secret to making that work is it’s an internet curated for you by people you trust. To see something on your Facebook TL, it has to come from someone with a mutually-defined relationship, or from someone you trust enough to follow. Untrustworthy acts — like when somebody tags your name on something that has nothing to do with you, in order do win unearned trust and attention — are easily reported and corrected. The fact that Facebook uses this web of relationships, clicks, and behaviors to do some seriously creepy data-mining and ad sales behind the scenes doesn’t affect the strengths of the service it provides in public.

But for this to work, Facebook must remain neutral. What you see must be what your trusted friends have curated and presented to you. There can’t be any monkeying around with the Facebook timeline, any more than AT&T or Verizon can decide which phone calls you may receive, or when you may receive them.

Facebook is now essentially corrupt, and it did it to itself. First, they performed this “experiment” of altering timelines in order to assess possible mood changes they could affect on their users. Then, after the fact, they slipped new language into their Terms of Service allowing them to do more of the same in the future.

Facebook is no longer the internet curated for you by those whom you trust. Facebook is now just another site showing you what it thinks you want or need to see, and for creepy reasons and in sneaky ways other sites could never get away with.

Leaving aside whether Facebook broke any laws, that’s a huge betrayal of its users, and the company needs to disavow the practice, strip the enabling language in the Terms of Service, and promptly fire whoever was responsible.

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