Elon Musk confirms likes on X are going private

12 Jun 2024

Image: © Bilal Ulker/Stock.adobe.com

According to Musk, it’s important people can like posts ‘without getting attacked for doing so’.

X is rolling out private likes in what it claims is a bid to allow people to feel safe and comfortable when liking certain posts on the platform.

While previously restricted to premium subscribers, hidden likes will now apply to everyone on the platform formerly known as Twitter.

It means that by default when a user likes a post on X, only that user and the publisher of the post will know. Other users will not have access to the names of accounts that have liked any given post, only the number of people who have liked it.

Owner Elon Musk confirmed the roll-out on X, saying that it is “important to allow people to like posts without getting attacked for doing so!”

Haofei Wang, director of engineering at X, has previously explained the rationale behind the move. In a post last month, Wang said that public likes “are incentivising the wrong behaviour”.

“For example, many people feel discouraged from liking content that might be ‘edgy’ in fear of retaliation from trolls, or to protect their public image,” Wang wrote. “Soon you’ll be able to like without worrying who might see it. Also a reminder that the more posts you like, the better your For you algorithm will become.”

The move also seems aimed at increasing engagement on the platform.

Around the same time as Wang’s post, X senior software engineer Enrique Barragan confirmed that as part of the private likes roll-out, users will no longer be able to see the Liked tab on another user’s profile (which lists all the posts liked by that user).

When asked by a user whether this lack of transparency will encourage more bots on the platform, Barragan said: “We are actively working on detecting and removing bots to avoid this and many other issues. We have some very promising changes in the pipeline that should help deal with bots more effectively.”

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic