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The reason why Instagram 'likes' have quietly disappeared completely from some posts

Jenni Ryall

UPDATE: AUGUST 15, 2019: Instagram has confirmed to Business Insider that it accidentally deleted likes on posts due to a bug. 

Editor's note: On Tuesday, Business Insider Australia confirmed a large amount of users had "likes" removed from users' feeds completely. Instagram incorrectly confirmed at the time the removal of "likes" was a part of a global test.

The company has now backtracked and said it was a bug – but would not confirm how many users were affected or what countries were affected. Business Insider understands it affected a large amount of users in multiple countries.


Recently, Instagram removed the 'like' counts from posts -- but the company actually took its dramatic test one step further and is testing the complete removal of 'likes'.

In devastating news for influencers the world over, we sadly confirm that in certain countries 'likes' have been completely removed from a huge amount of posts on Instagram.

The decision to actually show the number of 'likes' with context -- as in "69 people and others liked this post" -- is based on vague factors such as who has liked the post and your relationship to the person.

In other words, 'likes' aren't a given anymore.

In July, Instagram first rolled out its test of hiding like counts in Canada, and followed it up with a rollout in Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Ireland, Italy and Japan. The test means the number of 'likes' is no longer published publicly and is only available to the user.

The news was covered extensively, but it wasn't widely noticed that part of the test was to scrap 'likes' from some posts deemed unworthy by Instagram.

The Facebook-owned platform confirmed to Business Insider Australia the test launched in the 7 countries with the mechanism that prevents 'likes' showing on posts that do not meet a certain threshold, which is based on several factors including your relationship with the poster and who has liked the post. It includes almost all sponsored posts and a huge amount of organic posts.

Instagram later backtracked on this comment and confirmed to Business Insider the removal of likes was due to a global bug and not connected to the test.

"Our test is about removing the pressure of like counts by making them private, not removing likes altogether. We found a bug where some people weren't seeing social context (e.g. 'Liked by XX and others') on some posts. We've corrected this and the fix will roll out in the coming days," an Instagram spokesperson told Business Insider Australia in a statement.

Image: Business Insider Australia

After conducting a non-scientific study to get to the bottom of the bug, Business Insider discovered that almost all sponsored posts, as well as a number of organic posts, did not contain any likes at all. The only exception was if the sponsored and organic posts were liked by people you follow.  

This meant that a huge amount of Instagram posts no longer showed likes publicly at all – particularly from people who are not in your circle.

Hello, echo chambers with friends and family. Something is starting to sound a lot like Facebook.

Instagram would not reveal any further details about the bug, such as the amount of users affected or countries affected. Business Insider understands the bug removed likes for users in all the test countries, except Canada. 

The reason for the like count being removed, according to Instagram, is to take the pressure off users and create a positive environment. It makes sense with the PR struggle Facebook has faced in recent times over the use of its platform for nefarious purposes.

"We want Instagram to be a place where people feel comfortable expressing themselves. We hope this test will remove the pressure of how many 'likes' a post will receive, so you can focus on sharing the things you love," Facebook Australia and New Zealand director of policy Mia Garlick said in a statement in July.

"We are now rolling the test out to Australia so we can learn more about how this can benefit people's experiences on Instagram, and whether this change can help people focus less on 'likes' and more on telling their story."