Hindsight is 20/20 for Sean Parker, a former Facebook president who said this week that the social media site was built to exploit "a vulnerability in human psychology"—one that investigators believe Russia also manipulated as it was meddling in the 2016 election.
Speaking at an Axios event Tuesday, Parker said he and the team who launched Facebook in the early 2000s were trying to figure out, "How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?" Their solution was what Parker called a "social-validation feedback loop ... exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with."
Users want to post so that their friends like their content, and when their friends like their content, users want to post more. But that can have some unintended side effects for Facebook's 2.07 billion monthly active users.
"It literally changes your relationship with society, with each other," Parker said. "It probably interferes with productivity in weird ways. God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains."
Parker left Facebook in 2005.
The worldwide love-hate relationship with Facebook has come to a head recently, as lawmakers continue to dig into the role the internet played in the Kremlin's quest to influence the presidential election in Donald Trump's favor last November. The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence said earlier this month that Russians bought more than 3,000 Facebook ads, used 470 accounts, created 120 pages and reached 126 million Americans.
The posts were intended "to further a broader Kremlin objective—sowing discord in the U.S. by inflaming passions on a range of divisive issues," California Representative Adam Schiff, a Democrat, said at a hearing with various tech companies earlier this month.
The Facebook items included an ad for a Bernie Sanders coloring book called Buff Bernie, a Black Lives Matter–themed community and an illustration of Christ arm-wrestling the devil, with Satan saying, "If I win, [Hillary] Clinton wins!" and Jesus arguing, "Not if I can help it!"
While Parker has been speaking out against the site's effect on the human condition, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been more focused on fighting the Russians.
He said he's upset the trolls used Facebook to attempt to manipulate the elections, recently telling investors on an earnings call that "we are not going to stand for it." Zuckerberg has outlined a plan to beef up security by hiring 10,000 more safety experts, according to CNN.
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