Instagram hides 'likes' after criticism

SYDNEY • Instagram started hiding "likes" on its platform in Australia, Brazil and several other major markets yesterday, saying it wanted to ease pressure on users, following criticism about its impact on mental health.

The Facebook-owned social media giant's trial changes mean users in six countries will no longer be able to see the number of likes other people's posts receive.

"We want Instagram to be a place where people feel comfortable expressing themselves," Facebook Australia and New Zealand policy director Mia Garlick said.

Australia, Italy, Ireland, Japan, Brazil and New Zealand are involved in the trial, which follows an initial test launched in Canada in May. No deadline was given for when the trial would end.

Instagram, which has over one billion users worldwide, is a platform that allows users to post images and videos that others can then like or comment on. But, in the chosen test countries, likes will not be visible on people's profiles, the main image feed or permalink pages.

And while Instagram users will still be able to view the total number of likes on their own posts, they will need to click through to another page in order to do so.

Social media giants have faced increased scrutiny over the impact their platforms can have on users, and there is some research to suggest Instagram can negatively affect the mental health of young people who use it.

A 2017 study by the Royal Society for Public Health ranked Instagram as the worst social media platform for young people's mental health in Britain. A 2018 survey of teenagers in the US by the Pew Research Centre found nearly 40 per cent felt pressure to only share digital content that had garnered a lot of likes.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 19, 2019, with the headline 'Instagram hides 'likes' after criticism'. Subscribe