X, formerly Twitter, now hides your ‘likes’: NPR

A phone that displays the X logo.

As of Wednesday, X users are no longer able to see which posts others have liked, with a few exceptions.

Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP via Getty Images

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Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP via Getty Images

X, the app formerly known as Twitter, is implementing another controversial change.

Starting this week, users won’t be able to see which posts others have liked — adding a new layer of anonymity to a key feature of the social media platform.

“Starting today, Likes are private for everyone,” X’s engineering team tweeted on Wednesday. “Liking more posts will make your For You timeline better.”

This now means users can see which posts they’ve liked, but others can’t.

The author of a post can still see who liked it, with their number of likes and other engagement metrics displayed under the notifications tab. Otherwise, no one can see who liked another person’s post.

The change was made without much fanfare, although it was not a total surprise. The same engineering account had warned a day earlier that it would take that step within the week “to better protect your privacy.”

Hiding likes was already an option available to premium X subscribers (who pay $8 a month or $84 a year), with the platform announcing in September that they could choose to “keep spicy likes private by hiding likes tab” (plus the eyes and pepper emoji).

Haofei Wang, X’s director of engineering, confirmed last month that it would soon become the default setting for all users.

“Public opinion is driving the wrong behavior,” he tweeted in mid-May. “For example, many people feel discouraged from liking content they may be ‘disturbed’ for fear of retaliation from trolls, or to protect their public image. Soon you will be able to like without worrying who might to see him.”

Liked tweets as a form of accountability — and potential embarrassment

Users’ likes weren’t broadcast across the app in the same way their posts and reposts were, but they were easy to find — and scroll through — by clicking on the “likes” tab in an account.

Their visibility has gotten public figures into trouble before.

In 2017, an account associated with Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz liked a pornographic post from an account titled “Sex Posts,” causing a minor frenzy. He ultimately blamed an employee’s “mistake.”

Last year, Kentucky state Sen. Jason Howell, also a Republican, faced questions about a slew of posts liked by porn-related accounts — dating back years — as he sponsored a bill that would mandate a grievance process for the removal of “obscene” material from public schools. He said he had been the victim of a hack “or the subject of spam,” WKYU reported.

Just this week, X users noticed that Motley Crue frontman Vince Neil seemed to be enjoying his explicit images as well. Some even joked after the change took effect that he was responsible for it — or at least a lucky beneficiary.

Last month, the platform changed its policies around “adult content,” saying in an update that “you may share consensually produced and distributed adult nudity or sexual behavior, provided it is labeled properly and not prominently displayed”.

X owner Elon Musk has made a number of significant changes to the platform — from updating its name and logo to monetizing the verification system to reinstating previously banned accounts — since buying it in in 2022, and characterized many of these moves as aimed at facilitating free speech. .

But critics, including Twitter’s former security chief, say the moves not only sow chaos for users, employees and advertisers, but also allow misinformation and hate speech to flourish on the platform — a particularly timely concern as considering the number of foreign elections and conflicts currently taking place. .

Users aren’t necessarily welcoming the change with open arms

On Wednesday, Musk shared an analytics screenshot showing an increase in likes on the platform throughout the afternoon as the change took effect.

“Massive increase in likes after going private!” he wrote.

But users quickly piled into the comments, suggesting that the likes in question were pornographic, liked by bots, or about the unpopularity of the change itself.

Critics say the change reflects — and exacerbates — X’s struggle to manage the spam and bots that proliferate on the site.

“Hiding who likes a post is just one more step in making it harder to sift through the garbage,” wrote Alex Kirshner at Slate..

Other feedback on the app was decidedly negative, with many users accusing the platform of trying to fix things that weren’t broken.

A disappointed few joked that they wanted their followers to see what kind of kinks they were into, and many publicly lamented the ability to follow their love through their likes.

And some had logistical questions about how it would work.

Jack Dorsey, the co-founder and former CEO of Twitter, responded to Wang’s post, asking what distinguishes private likes from bookmarks. Before the site introduced that feature in 2018, users had to like a post before saving it for later — which could send the wrong message to journalists and others concerned about impartiality (hence the classic disclaimers “likes don’t represent views” in many such bios ).

“The like is visible between you and the author, the author will be notified, but not anyone else,” Wang replied. “The bookmark is only visible to you.”

X isn’t the only platform that has taken steps to minimize the value of the like button. Meta allows users to hide likes on their Instagram posts and Threads, while TikTok allows users to choose who can view their liked videos.

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