Early Facebook adviser: social giant exploits 'a vulnerability in human psychology'

Early Facebook adviser: social giant exploits 'a vulnerability in human psychology'
© Getty Images

Early Facebook adviser Sean Parker on Wednesday slammed the company he played a pivotal role in building.

Parker described himself as “something of a conscientious objector" to social media in an interview with Axios, railing against the company for being designed to exploit “a vulnerability in human psychology.”

“That thought process was really all about ‘how do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?’” Parker said.

“That means that we needed to sort of give you a little dopamine hit every once in awhile because someone liked or commented on a photo or a post or whatever. ... It's a social validation feedback loop,” he continued.

Parker said that he, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom were all aware of these exploits, but pursued them anyway.

Parker admitted that when he was helping advise Facebook as it grew, he was unsure if he understood the consequences of what could happen when the network grew to the 2 billion people who are on its platform now.

Parker, who made his name in tech with the file sharing program Napster, stumbled across the company in its early days. Parker, who is portrayed in "The Social Network" by Justin Timberlake, introduced Zuckerberg to Facebook’s first investor, Silicon Valley titan Peter Thiel, an eventual surrogate for President Trump's campaign.

Facebook is facing scrutiny over larger questions of how it, along with other tech firms, can affect democracies. Top lawyers from Facebook, Twitter and Google testified last week before several congressional committees that probed the firms on how Russian actors used their platforms to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

Critics like Sen. Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenGOP lawmaker once belittled sexual harassment: 'How traumatizing was it?' Meet the man poised to battle Dems from the White House Minnesota GOP Senate candidate compared Michelle Obama to a chimp in Facebook post MORE (D-Minn.) say that they would like to the firms display a better understanding of the impact that they can have. Sens. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharIs there a difference between good and bad online election targeting? Election Countdown: Minnesota Dems worry Ellison allegations could cost them key race | Dems struggle to mobilize Latino voters | Takeaways from Tennessee Senate debate | Poll puts Cruz up 9 in Texas Clusters of polio-like illness in the US not a cause for panic MORE (D-Minn.) and Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerDems can use subpoena power to reclaim the mantle of populism Is there a difference between good and bad online election targeting? Collusion judgment looms for key Senate panel MORE (D-Va.) have introduced a bill called the Honest Ads Act, aimed at curbing foreign influence in American politics. The legislation would hold internet ad platforms to the same political advertising disclosure standards as TV and radio stations. 

On Thursday, Klobuchar told The Hill that tech firms have still not come around to supporting the bill in its current form.