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Elon Musk’s X makes user likes private to enhance privacy, engagement

In a strategic move aimed at bolstering user privacy and increasing engagement, Elon Musk’s platform X announced on Thursday that it would be making “likes” private across its service.

This change includes the removal of the “Likes” tab from profile pages, effectively preventing users from tracking the likes of others to discern their interests or political affiliations.

“We are making Likes private for everyone to better protect your privacy,” X informed users through a pop-up message, emphasizing the platform’s commitment to safeguarding user data.

The decision comes amid X’s evolution into a hub for right-wing content following Musk’s acquisition in late 2022, which saw a shift in user demographics as more left-leaning users either reduced their activity or left the platform altogether.

“Liking more posts will make your ‘For You’ feed better,” X assured users, highlighting that the algorithmically-driven “For You” feed will continue to deliver personalized content recommendations based on individual interests and engagement history.

Elon Musk himself endorsed the move in a social media post, stating, “It’s important to allow people to like posts without getting attacked for doing so!”

Haofei Wang, X’s head of engineering, underscored that public likes had been promoting undesirable user behaviors.

“Many people feel discouraged from liking content that might be ‘edgy’ in fear of retaliation from trolls or to protect their public image,” Wang noted.

Since Musk’s acquisition, X has reversed previous content moderation policies and reinstated banned accounts, particularly those popular among the far-right.

While these changes initially caused a decline in overall engagement, X claims growth in other performance metrics.

However, the platform also faced challenges, including a significant loss of major advertisers concerned about association with inappropriate content.

Despite this, a recent survey by the Pew Research Center revealed a notable shift in public perception towards X’s impact on democracy.

The share of Republicans viewing X favorably for democracy more than tripled from 17% in 2021 to 53% in 2024, whereas the proportion among Democrats dropped from 47% to 26% over the same period.

As X continues to navigate these changes, its strategy to prioritize user privacy while maintaining engagement levels reflects ongoing efforts to reshape its platform in the evolving landscape of social media.

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