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Dating Website Admits It ‘Experimented on Human Beings’
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Dating Website Admits It ‘Experimented on Human Beings’

"If you use the Internet, you’re the subject of hundreds of experiments at any given time, on every site."

Those who turn to online dating might be drawn by the appeal of algorithms used to help them find a compatible match, not to mention the fact that it's relatively low pressure. But one dating website is admitting something that many users of other social sites have balked at in the past: it's been manipulating and experimenting with them.

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"I’m the first to admit it: we might be popular, we might create a lot of great relationships, we might blah blah blah. But OkCupid doesn’t really know what it’s doing. Neither does any other website," OK Cupid President Christian Rudder wrote in a blog post Monday. "It’s not like people have been building these things for very long, or you can go look up a blueprint or something. Most ideas are bad. Even good ideas could be better. Experiments are how you sort all this out."

In a post titled "We Experimented on Human Beings" on its trends blog, Rudder explained, in a rather cavalier, way that "if you use the Internet, you’re the subject of hundreds of experiments at any given time, on every site."

Rudder detailed a few of the experiments the site conducted with its users' information. One of the experiments tried to figure out what happened when it tried to set people up on online blind dates, a so-called "Love Is Blind" app. This experiment found that people were 44 percent more likely to respond to messages, it paved the way for deeper conversations and contact information was shared more readily.

"In short, OK Cupid worked better," this trial found.

After photos were shared later though, "those conversations melted away." But if couples met for a blind date in person as a result of the app, "they had a good time more or less regardless of how good-looking their partner was," Rudder noted.

Another experiment found out that people "just look at the picture" and any text on the user's profile "is less than 10 [percent] of what people think of you."

"So, your picture is worth that fabled thousand words, but your actual words are worth…almost nothing," Rudder wrote.

Yet another experiment manipulated user's actual compatibility scores.

Why is OK Cupid deciding to reveal this and other information about how experiments with its users now? According to the New York Times, the dating sites' admission comes on the heels of Facebook reporting last month how it manipulated news feeds of thousands of users for a study, which upset a larger number of these people and, as Rudder pointed out in his post, even got the Federal Trade Commission and other international governments involved.

Rudder told the Times that its user agreement says information might be used in research.

“We told users something that wasn’t true. I’m definitely not hiding from that fact,” Rudder told the Times of the experiment that gave users the wrong compatibility scores.

“People come to us because they want the website to work, and we want the website to work," he added, explaining why they conduct such experiments in the first place.

(H/T: Daily Mail)

Front page image via Shutterstock.

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