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InternetTech

X decides to hide user likes

X has taken the decision to make user likes private, ostensibly to “protect your privacy”. As a user on X, you’ll still be able to see the posts you’ve liked but others cannot. You won’t be able to see who liked someone else’s post. But as a post author, you can still see who liked your post.

Naturally this has caused quite a stir, the main argument against it being that it’s another layer of accountability removed on what is frequently labelled a ‘hell-site’. An adjective often used for X, formerly Twitter, is ‘toxic’. And it’s that toxicity that’s caused many people to leave the platform altogether.

A topic that’s often trending on X is the genocide happening in Gaza. To the present day, Israel has attempted to push its narrative of “mass rapes” occurring on October 7th, and many mainstream media outlets have been complicit in spreading this story. The story, however, has been widely debunked by various independent media outlets such as The Grayzone, The Electronic Intifada and Mondoweiss, as well as independent investigators such as Zei Squirrel. It’s reminiscent of Hillary Clinton in 2011 claiming Libyan forces were being given Viagra to conduct mass rapes as a weapon of war, a claim that was unsurprisingly debunked.

So what does this have to do with likes on X? Likes are just one of the many ways that the world is opening their eyes to the insidious nature of Western mainstream media, not as a purveyor of truth, but rather an extension of the state that willingly proceeds to publish propaganda. The New York Times, for example, has had its reputation irreparably damaged in publishing articles about mass rape on October 7th. Not only has the content of their articles failed to stand up to scrutiny, but it turns out they hired Anat Schwartz, someone with no prior reporting experience, to be a lead reporter in an October 7th investigation. Shockingly, Anat Schwartz had liked a post on X calling for Gaza to be turned into a “slaughterhouse”. Conflict of interest, anyone?

It’s for this reason that people feel accountability is being eroded on X with likes being made private. The rationale about X wanting to protect user privacy is also questionable, particularly when those who want to monetize have to provide their government-issued ID to a third party. And then there are the bots. How can users know if certain content is genuinely popular or if it’s being boosted due to likes by bots and click farms? If election interference was bad in 2016, what will it be like this time round?

X post by Elon Musk saying, "You can now hide your likes, but I recommend keeping them open and just using bookmarks for interesting posts"
Elon Musk recommended keeping likes open in September 2023.

The hiding of likes is all the more questionable when Elon Musk recommended in September 2023 that people with a premium account keep their likes open. What caused such a shift that now all choice has been removed? But ultimately hiding likes does one thing that’s particularly risky to X. It removes a social element of this social media platform. Likes have often formed a basis by which people can connect on X. People liking similar posts would be a good indicator of a potential connection and a reason to follow, engage and comment. This is no longer possible. As long as X continues to ‘fix’ things that aren’t broken, competitor platforms such as Threads, which now has over 150 million monthly active users, will be more appealing. Some research indicates millions of users are leaving X, and if others haven’t jumped ship, the hiding of likes could be the last straw.

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