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Facebook Could be Preparing to Hide its Maligned ‘Like’ Feature

Ross Kelly

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Facebook Like

Facebook users could find themselves in a world without the ‘likes’ feature, according to reports this week.

 

Prominent app researcher Jane Manchun Wong claims to have discovered code that indicates Facebook plans to hide the number of likes a post receives – with the actual number hidden from everyone except the user.

Wong’s discovery follows a similar situation earlier this year with Instagram. The researcher revealed that Facebook’s sister platform was also planning to launch a feature to hide likes. Just weeks later, the social media site began initially testing this in Canada.

Since then, the scheme has been rolled out to a host of other nations, including Ireland, Australia and New Zealand.

In a blog post, Wong commented: “I observed that Facebook has recently begun prototyping this hidden like/reaction count feature in their Android app by reverse-engineering the app and playing with the code underneath.

“Currently, with this unreleased feature, the like/reaction count is hidden from anyone other than the creator of the post, just like how it works on Instagram. This list of people who liked/reacted will still be accessible, but the amount will be hidden.”

Wong noted that like and reaction counts on comments are not yet hidden. However, she speculated that this could be “due to the nature of this feature being in an early stage of development”.

If Facebook was to follow through with the proposed feature it would mark a major change for the platform, as the like button was introduced in 2009. Although this feature has become ever-present on Facebook, the company has come under fire recently amid claims that features such as these have a detrimental effect on young people’s mental health.

In August, the Royal Society for Public Health published new research that showed the public views the ‘like’ button as one of the most toxic features on social media. The research conducted with the launch of the Scroll Free September initiative, which aims to help people reduce their time spent on social networking platforms.

Wong said: “The fact that Instagram initially tested their hidden like counts feature in Canada, and then subsequently in more regions around the world, and then now Facebook is working on it too, indicates Facebook/Instagram have confidence in the pros of hiding like counts outweighing the cons.

“By hiding the like/reaction counts from anyone other than the post creator, users might feel less anxious about the perceived popularity of their content. Studies have shown that social media use may influence mental health, including leading to depression and anxiety.”

When Instagram announced its feature changes earlier this year, Mia Garlick, Facebook’s Australia and New Zealand director of policy said the company wanted users to “feel comfortable” expressing themselves on the platform rather than be judged by the number of likes a post receives.

“We hope this test will remove the pressure of how many likes a post will receive, so you can focus on sharing the things you love,” Garlick commented.

“We are now rolling the test out to Australia so we can learn more about how this can benefit people’s experiences on Instagram, and whether this change can help people focus less on likes and more on telling their story.”

Ross Kelly

Staff Writer

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