Sean Parker: Facebook Hacks Vulnerability in Human Psychology

Facebook's founders knew they were creating something addictive that exploited "a vulnerability in human psychology" from the outset, according to the company's founding president Sean Parker.

Parker, whose stake in Facebook made him a billionaire, criticized the social networking giant at an Axios event in Philadelphia this week. Now the founder and chair of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, Parker was there to speak about advances in cancer therapies. However, he took the time to provide some insight into the early thinking at Facebook at a time when social media companies face intense scrutiny from lawmakers over their power and influence.

Parker described how in the early days of Facebook people would tell him they weren't on social media because they valued their real-life interactions.

"And I would say, 'OK. You know, you will be,'" he said.

"I don't know if I really understood the consequences of what I was saying," he added, pointing to "unintended consequences" that arise when a network grows to have more than 2 billion users.

"It literally changes your relationship with society, with each other. It probably interferes with productivity in weird ways. God only knows what it's doing to our children's brains," he said.

He explained that when Facebook was being developed the objective was: "How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?" It was this this mindset that led to the creation of features such as the "like" button that would give users "a little dopamine hit" to encourage them to upload more content.

"It's a social-validation feedback loop... exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with, because you're exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology."

Parker, who previously founded the file-sharing site Napster, joined the Facebook team in 2004 five months after the site had launched as a...

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