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Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri says an episode of 'Black Mirror' inspired the decision to test hiding likes

Connor Perrett , Business Insider US
 Jan 20, 2020, 08:20 PM
Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri
Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri explained the company's decision to hide the number of likes from users.
  • For months, Instagram has been testing hiding public-facing likes from Instagram feeds worldwide.
  • In an interview with The New York Times, Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri said the decision was inspired by an episode of "Black Mirror" where characters rated each other based on their interactions.
  • Instagram users have had mixed feelings about the change, which is still in a testing phase.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri said in an interview published Friday that the company's decision to test hiding the number of likes from users on the platform was a decision inspired - at least partially - by Netflix's "Black Mirror."

In an interview with The New York Times, the 36-year-old CEO explained the reasoning behind the company's recent decision - called "Project Daisy" internally - to test the removal of public-facing like tallies from Instagram users' feeds.

While The New York Times did not name the episode Mosseri said was on his mind when he began to spearhead the change, based on his description of the episode, he was likely influenced by "Nosedive," an episode in the third season of the Netflix hit series.

"Nosedive" aired in 2016 as part of the British show's third season. It stars Bryce Dallas Howard in a world where people rate each other on a one-to-five scale based on their interactions with one another. The rating system influences how people in society are treated and has been described as a commentary on social media's influence.

In the episode, Lacie Pound - Howard's character - spent the majority of her time obsessed with her rating, attempting to no avail throughout "Nosedive" to increase her score to gain more real-world opportunities. Even Howard said her own social media habits had changed following her "Black Mirror" appearance.

Part of Mosseri's desire to reform Instagram, he told The New York Times, was based on his previous job at Facebook (Instagram's owner), which required he oversee the Facebook News Feed, often criticised for the prevalence of fake news and harmful content.

"We should have started to more proactively think about how Instagram and Facebook could be abused and mitigate those risks," Mosseri told The New York Times. "We're playing catch-up."

As Business Insider previously reported, Instagram has been toying with the idea of eliminating user-facing likes since last year.

While users will still be able to see the amount of likes on their own posts to the social-media platform, the idea behind "Project Daisy" is that other users will not see the tallies.

In the name of mental health, Instagram began testing the feature in July 2019 in seven countries - Australia, Brazil, Canada, Ireland, Italy, Japan, and New Zealand. In November last year, Mosseri announced that some US users would begin to see the number of likes hidden from posts.

While the feature has been in testing, or "dog-fooding" as it's called internally at Instagram, per The New York Times, the company has reportedly been deciding how exactly to implement the feature.

The report said the company was still determining whether to show if a post passed a certain threshold of likes (like thousands or millions of likes, for example), or whether it would provide a way for users to determine the number of likes on a photo or video through other methods.

"We will make decisions that hurt the business if they help people's well-being and health," Mosseri previously said, per WIRED.

While Mosseri views the step as one in the right direction to mitigate the negatives of social media, Instagram users, and in particular influencers who use the platform to earn a living, have had mixed reactions to the proposed change. Some believe the decision could improve the mental health of influencers and lead to more genuine posts on Instagram.

Mosseri realises that decision - which he says is to "depressurise the app" - is complicated and will have mixed reactions among the various worldwide communities that use Instagram.

"I just don't want to piss anyone off," he said in a meeting about the change, per The New York Times.

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