Facebook starts hiding 'likes' and reactions in Australia

COMPILED FROM WIRE SERVICES
ISTANBUL
Published 27.09.2019 17:46
Stickers bearing the Facebook logo are pictured at Facebook Inc's F8 developers conference in San Jose, California, U.S., April 30, 2019. (REUTERS Photo)
Stickers bearing the Facebook logo are pictured at Facebook Inc's F8 developers conference in San Jose, California, U.S., April 30, 2019. (REUTERS Photo)

Facebook started hiding the number of "likes" for posts in Australia on Friday in a trial that could be rolled out worldwide.

Users will be blocked from viewing the number of likes, reactions and video views on other people's posts. However, the account holders will still be able to see how people respond to their own posts.

"It really is just taking that number out of the equation, so that people can focus on the quality of their interactions and the quality of the content rather than on the number of likes or reactions," Mia Garlick, policy director of Facebook Australia, told Australian newswire agency AAP.

"We don't want Facebook to feel like a competition," the company said in a statement.

The news was met with a mix of "skepticism and appreciation" from cyber-psychology researcher Jocelyn Brewer, who welcomed Facebook's review of the impact of "vanity metrics" on people's wellbeing.

But users will find other means to express a reaction, she added.

"As with many behaviors, I believe it is likely that people will adapt from liking to commenting and other actions that achieve online recognition and identity signaling," Brewer told AFP.

The social media giant did not confirm how long the trial would run for.

"We want to understand from people whether removing the total counts improves their experience, while also not limiting any positive interactions," said Garlick.

Facebook introduced the "like" button first in February 2009, while other reactions, including "sad" and "angry," were added in 2016.

More than one billion people use Facebook worldwide. The company has an estimated 16 million users in Australia.

The social media giant has come under pressure to combat the platform's impact on mental health especially after last year when a 14-year-old girl — who starred in adverts for a well-known Australian hat brand — killed herself after being bullied online.

In Australia, one in five children report experiencing cyberbullying, according to the country's eSafety commissioner.

Garlick said Australia had active "tech-savvy" users of Facebook and Instagram.

"We think this is a great country where we can get some really good feedback about whether this is a valuable experience for people on our services or not," she said.

In July, Facebook launched a trial to hide "likes" on Instagram, the company's other major social media platform, in Canada, which was then expanded to Australia, Brazil and several other major markets.

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