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Facebook is messing with kids' brains, says its ex president

The former president of Facebook now says the social media platform is “exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology” and messing with kids’ brains.

Speaking with Axios’ Mike Allen at an event for cancer research, Sean Parker negatively characterized the primary goal of social media as collecting as many eyeballs and attention time from its users as possible.

“The thought process that went into building these applications, Facebook being the first of them, … was all about: ‘How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?’” said Parker, who headed the company about 10 years ago, when it was in its infancy. “And that means that we need 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. And that’s going to get you to contribute more content, and that’s going to get you … more likes and comments.


“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,” Parker told Allen. “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.”

Parker hasn’t been actively involved with Facebook for many years, although he influenced Mark Zuckerberg heavily in the early years — a time immortalized in the movie The Social Network. Before his time at Facebook, Parker was most famous for co-founding Napster, the music file sharing service that upended the music industry.

After leaving Facebook in 2006, Parker linked up with Facebook board member Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund, a job that he left three years back. Since then, he has become more focused on giving away chunks of the $2.6 billion fortune he got from his early association with the company.

But even if Parker may now think Facebook is damaging civilization, he’s continued to collaborate with Thiel; the two are jointly funding a startup called 3T Biosciences that is developing a new cancer treatment.