Elon Musk says X is making likes private to avoid ‘attacks’

Politicians have previously faced criticism for ‘liking’ sexually explicit content on X  (The Associated Press)
Politicians have previously faced criticism for ‘liking’ sexually explicit content on X (The Associated Press)

Elon Musk has confirmed that X, formerly known as Twitter, will hide what users have liked on the social media site.

The move is aimed at protecting people’s public image, according to the billionaire owner, with some politicians and celebrities previously facing criticism for ‘liking’ pornographic tweets on the platform.

“Important to allow people to like posts without getting attacked for doing so,” Mr Musk wrote in response to a post about X reportedly rolling out an update to hide likes.

Last month, X director of engineering Haofei Wang said the change was coming in order to help users of the site “protect their public image”, and that some users were unwilling to like certain content on the site over fear of retaliation.

“Yeah, we are making likes private,” he wrote on X in May.

“Public likes are incentivising the wrong behaviour. For example, many people feel discouraged from liking content that might be ‘edgy’ in fear of retaliation from trolls, or to protect their public image.

“Soon you’ll be able to like without worrying who might see it. Also a reminder that the more posts you like, the better your For you algorithm will become.”

Since Mr Musk took over Twitter – as it was then known – in late 2022, he has loosened content moderation on the site and allowed more controversial material on the platform, as part of his support of “absolute free speech”.

According to reports on the issue, the likes tab on user profiles will disappear from the site, but users will still be able to see who liked their posts, and the overall like count for all posts will remain visible.

In March last year, a Kentucky senator claimed that his Twitter account had been hacked after reporters noted that sexually explicit images appeared in his ‘liked’ tweets.

The pornographic content remained in Senator Jason Howell’s Twitter account history for two years before finally being removed.

Additional reporting from agencies.