Elon Musk’s X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, has announced plans to hide all users’ “likes” in an effort to “better protect your privacy,” a move that has sparked concerns about potential blackmail, abuse, and the inability to validate post engagement — making it easier than ever for bots to distort and disrupt the platform.

The Register reports that the decision to make “likes” private, which was initially available only to Premium users last year, will now be applied to all X/Twitter users. The platform’s engineering team shared the news on their account, stating that the change would be implemented sometime this week. Once the switch is flipped, the Likes tab on user profiles will disappear, though users will still be able to see a list of posts they have personally “liked.”

An effigy of Elon Musk is seen on a mobile device with the X and Twitter lgoso in the background in this photo illustration on 23 July, 2023 in Warsaw, Poland. (Photo by Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

This change means that X/Twitter users will no longer be able to see who has liked a specific post or what posts a particular person has liked. However, users will still have access to metrics from their own posts and a full list of people who have liked their content.

The decision has raised concerns about the potential for blackmail and abuse. While X/Twitter owner Elon Musk may not have to worry about being blackmailed with his now-secret likes, others might not be so lucky. In the past, Twitter accounts belonging to prominent politicians have been caught liking pornographic posts. With such engagement now secret to all but the original poster, the possibilities for misuse of this information by bad actors are alarming.

X/Twitter’s director of engineering, Haofei Wang, has encouraged users to embrace the change, stating that “public likes are incentivizing the wrong behavior.” Wang suggested that many people feel discouraged from liking “edgy” content due to fear of retaliation from trolls or to protect their public image. He added that with the new system, users should freely “like” posts, as it will improve their “For you” algorithm.

However, some X/Twitter users have pointed out that the decision to remove public “likes” is an admission that the platform cannot solve its bot problem, which was once a dealbreaker for Musk’s purchase of Twitter. Since the billionaire’s takeover, researchers have found that the bot issue has worsened.

The move eliminates the community’s ability to validate a post’s engagement by verifying that “likes” come from organic users and not bots. Some users have expressed concerns that this change will enable fraud and make it easier to manipulate posts related to upcoming elections in the US and elsewhere.

Read more at the Register here.

Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship.