The Stanford prison experiment (SPE) was a social psychology experiment influenced by the Milgram experiment that attempted to investigate the psychological effects of perceived power, focusing on the struggle between prisoners and prison officers. It was conducted at Stanford University on the days of August 14–20, 1971, by a research group of college students led by psychology professor Philip Zimbardo. In the study, volunteers were assigned to be either “guards” or “prisoners” by the flip of a coin, in a mock prison, with Zimbardo himself serving as the superintendent. Several “prisoners” left mid-experiment, and the whole experiment was abandoned after six days. Early reports on experimental results claimed that students quickly embraced their assigned roles, with some guards enforcing authoritarian measures and ultimately subjecting some prisoners to psychological torture, while many prisoners passively accepted psychological abuse and, by the officers’ requests, actively harassed other prisoners who tried to stop it. The experiment has been described in many introductory social psychology textbooks, although some have chosen to exclude it because its methodology and ethics are sometimes questioned.
This is a fascinating research (again suffers from “replication crisis”) and it’s morality and ethics have been called into question. Social media (and networks) are somewhat analogous- they are controlled by unseen algorithms which determine the behaviour of “rest of us”. While Twitter has been bleating about being a platform for free speech, it chooses to “censor” specific agendas. Facebook has mainstreamed “hypocrisy” that is in-tune with the US administration. They are both the judge and jury and also implement rules as they deem fit.
If you look carefully, they have positioned themselves as custodians of speech (under the ambit of being for friends and family) while amassing user data on a global scale.
Users should realise that there are better alternatives to these mainstream applications- its akin to the infamous “Stanford Prision Experiment”.