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Can Facebook hiding 'Likes' curb bullying?

Social networking giant conducts experiment for mental health; experts say it needs to do more to combat online harassment

Naandika Tripathi
Published: Oct 9, 2019 10:44:15 AM IST
Updated: Oct 9, 2019 11:13:29 AM IST

Can Facebook hiding 'Likes' curb bullying?Illustration: Smaeer Pawar

In a unique experiment, Facebook began hiding the number of likes received on posts. The reactions are visible only to the user who has published the content, as per the trial that began in Australia on September 27. “We are running a limited test where likes, reactions and video view counts are made private across Facebook. We will gather feedback to understand whether this improves people’s experiences,” says a Facebook spokesperson.

The social networking giant had conducted a similar experiment on Instagram in July when likes were hidden in seven countries: Australia, Canada, Brazil, New Zealand, Ireland, Italy and Japan.

“Facebook has argued that hiding likes will benefit a user’s mental health, so they are pushing it out as an advantage… but I’m not sure there is a demonstrable correlation. It needs to do a lot more to clean up bullying and online harassment for users to take them seriously,” says Corinne Podger, social media consultant and trainer.

“This would enable brands to focus on real business metrics but in the shorter term there will be some disorientation as both clients and agencies would have to reassess the metrics they track,” explains Rajiv Dingra, founder and CEO of digital marketing agency WATConsult.

“Creative minds thrive on the likes which give them an idea about whether or not their work resonates with the audience. Brands approach creators who have a decent engagement. So hiding likes will affect creators and brands too,” says YouTuber Bhuvan Bam.

On October 2, Instagram began a feature called “Restrict”. When you 'restrict' a user, comments on your posts from that person are only visible to them, and not to other people.

(This story appears in the 25 October, 2019 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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