Ex-Face­book exec says it was de­signed to be ad­dic­tive

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - NEWS - By El­lie Sil­ver­man

The Face­book founders pur­pose­fully cre­ated some­thing ad­dic­tive, the so­cial net­work’s first pres­i­dent told Ax­ios in an in­ter­view.

“God only knows what it’s do­ing to our chil­dren’s brains,” Sean Parker said in the in­ter­view pub­lished Thurs­day.

With each like and com­ment, Face­book is “ex­ploit­ing” hu­man psy­chol­ogy on pur­pose to keep users hooked on a “so­cial-val­i­da­tion feed­back loop,” Parker said, ad­ding that it is “ex­actly the kind of thing that a hacker like my­self would come up with.”

Parker, the bil­lion­aire Nap­ster co-founder who later served as Face­book’s found­ing pres­i­dent, made the com­ments at an Ax­ios event at the Na­tional Con­sti­tu­tion Cen­ter in Philadelphia. Speak­ing to Ax­ios’ Mike Allen, Parker called him­self “some­thing of a con­sci­en­tious ob­jec­tor.”

“I don’t know if I re­ally un­der­stood the con­se­quences of what I was say­ing, be­cause (of) the un­in­tended con­se­quences of a net­work when it grows to a bil­lion or 2 bil­lion peo­ple and ... it lit­er­ally changes your re­la­tion­ship with so­ci­ety, with each other . ... It prob­a­bly in­ter­feres with pro­duc­tiv­ity in weird ways,” Parker said.

When help­ing Face­book get off the ground in 2004, Parker said, he and oth­ers in­volved in the nascent so­cial net­work thought: “How do we con­sume as much of your time and con­scious at­ten­tion as pos­si­ble?”

“And that means that we need to sort of give you a lit­tle dopamine hit ev­ery once in a while, be­cause some­one liked or com­mented on a photo or a post or what­ever. And that’s go­ing to get you to con­trib­ute more con­tent, and that’s go­ing to get you ... more likes and com­ments.”

Although Face­book is a so­cial net­work­ing site, it also has im­mense im­pact as an ad­ver­tis­ing plat­form and news dis­trib­u­tor, reach­ing 2 bil­lion peo­ple each month.

The com­pany has made head­lines re­cently with rev­e­la­tions that it sold ads dur­ing the U.S. pres­i­den­tial cam­paign to a Rus­sian firm tied to pro-Krem­lin pro­pa­ganda. The more than 3,000 Rus­sian-bought ads sought to in­flu­ence dif­fer­ent vot­ers based on their po­lit­i­cal and de­mo­graphic char­ac­ter­is­tics, The Wash­ing­ton Post re­ported.

Ac­cord­ing to Ax­ios, Parker joked that Zucker­berg would block him on Face­book after read­ing what he said.

ADAM JEF­FERY/GETTY

Sean Parker, for­mer pres­i­dent of Face­book, says the so­cial net­work is ad­dic­tive through “so­cial-val­i­da­tion.”

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