Autonomy Online: Jacques Ellul and the Facebook Emotional Manipulation Study

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Though we would expect the revelation of the Facebook emotional manipulation study to have had a negative impact on Facebook, its number of active users only continues to grow. As this is precisely the result that Jacques Ellul would have predicted, this paper examines his philosophy of technology in order to investigate the relationship between Facebook and its users and what this relationship means in terms of autonomy. That Facebook can manipulate its users without losing users reveals that Facebook’s autonomy is growing while the autonomy of users is diminishing. The paper concludes by showing that the answer to this increasingly asymmetrical relationship cannot be the creation of review boards and oversight committees as the underlying issues concerning autonomy are existential more than they are ethical.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)55-61
Number of pages7
JournalResearch Ethics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • autonomy
  • Jacques Ellul
  • Facebook
  • research ethics
  • philosophy of technology


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