X makes ‘Likes’ private for all users

The platform formerly known as Twitter, now rebranded as X, has implemented a major change – likes on the platform are now private by default. This means that while the total number of likes a post receives will still be visible, users will no longer be able to see who specifically liked a particular post. With the new update, X is making likes private by default for all users, marking a change from its previous stance of displaying users’ likes publicly, which has often led to scrutiny and controversy.

“This week we’re making Likes private for everyone to better protect your privacy,” read a post from X’s engineering team.

Historically, public likes on X have served as both a tool for engagement and a potential source of backlash. The ability to see who liked a post has traditionally allowed users to gauge the popularity and acceptance of content. However, this transparency has also exposed users, especially politicians and public figures, to public scrutiny and potential criticism. Instances of public figures liking controversial or inappropriate posts have led to PR crises and have discouraged open engagement on the platform. Recognizing these issues, X initially introduced the ability to hide likes as a feature for its Premium subscribers last year. This feature aimed to provide a layer of privacy and protection for users, allowing them to engage with content without fear of backlash.

Now, this change, scheduled to be implemented this week, means that users will still be able to see who liked their own posts and access like counts and other metrics for their posts (they will show up in the notifications). However, the visibility of likes on other users’ posts will be restricted. This new feature diminishes one of the key incentives for subscribing to X Premium. The ability to hide likes was previously a unique benefit for Premium subscribers, and its universal rollout might affect the perceived value of the subscription. X has been facing declining advertising revenue and introduced multiple subscription tiers to address its financial challenges. The Premium+ tier, which costs $16 per month, removes ads from users’ timelines, while a more affordable $3 tier offers fewer benefits.

Haofei Wang, X’s Director of Engineering, emphasized that public likes incentivize the wrong behavior. Many users hesitate to like content that might be considered edgy or controversial for fear of retaliation from trolls or damage to their reputation. By making likes private, X aims to create an environment where users can freely express their interests without concern for public judgment.

Still, while the move towards private likes has its potential benefits, it also raises concerns about its impact on user experience. Some users argue that the lack of visibility into who liked a particular post reduces transparency and accountability. It becomes difficult to gauge the authenticity of content engagement, as bots or inauthentic accounts could inflate like counts without detection.