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Why did Elon Musk make Likes disappear from X profiles?

It would seem to be a ploy to hide bot accounts

Why did Elon Musk make Likes disappear from X profiles?  It would seem to be a ploy to hide bot accounts

Recently on X, the like section has been removed from profiles: users will no longer be able to see who liked what, although they will still see the total number of likes on individual posts, and the list of content a profile has interacted with will only be accessible by the profile owner. Since autumn 2022, Elon Musk, having become the owner of what is now officially called X, but was once Twitter, has been directly influencing the platform’s design with decisions that often seem almost entirely personal – a mode rarely seen in other social networks, where such choices appear to be more considered and handled by dedicated teams. According to The Verge, Musk had wanted to remove likes for some time and had been discussing this change internally, not believing likes were important for his platform. Not coincidentally, he had already decided to allow only paying users to choose whether to show their likes or not. The company stated it chose to completely remove the historic section that collected them to better protect user privacy and to make them feel freer to appreciate controversial content without attracting unwanted attention.


The issue of likes on X

In the past, many prominent figures have complained about their likes being public. In 2017, for example, the profile of U.S. Senator Ted Cruz liked sexually explicit content, becoming a national incident. More recently, a British Labour Party candidate was excluded from her party’s electoral lists for liking some posts critical of Israel. Now, with the new feature, Musk «allows people to approve the content of a post [...] without needing to personally defend their position», commented journalist and technology expert Alex Kirshner on Slate. But according to the American publication, hiding the identity of profiles that like content would primarily serve Musk to conceal the numerous activities on X performed by bots, including adding likes. The platform now has numerous automated profiles, especially of a sexual nature, which with their content direct users to unreliable, clearly deceptive sites. When Musk bought Twitter, he said one of his priorities was to rid the social network of bots. Instead, their spread has increased, and the phenomenon is now so visible that numerous memes about it have even begun to appear. On X, it is common to downplay the various controversial aspects of the platform: many users are reporting that the recent disappearance of the like section will no longer allow them to spy on people they have a crush on, check what content interests them, and what they interact with most. Thus, memes on the topic have multiplied again on the social network, while others have suggested starting to comment with the word "like" under the most appreciated content.


The history of likes on social networks

In 2006, Twitter introduced the ability to add another user’s post to the "favorites" section to easily find the most interesting tweets again; this feature remained active until 2015, the year the company definitively replaced it with likes, which thanks to their enormous diffusion and popularity on social media were gaining more and more ground. Today, however, the centrality of likes has diminished, and X is not the first platform to decide to scale them down. Instagram, for example, has long offered the ability to hide the number of likes to reduce the social pressure some users might feel when their post doesn’t get enough appreciation. TikTok also allows making liked videos public or not, but most members choose not to show this data. YouTube, on the other hand, in 2021 decided to hide the number of dislikes on videos, as the tool was often used to organize hate campaigns against specific content creators.