Facebook considering removing public 'like' counts

Facebook says it may follow in the footsteps of Instagram and start hiding 'likes' on news feed posts.

It comes as the tech giant faces increasing criticism over the toll social media takes on young people's mental health, including increasing rates of anxiety and depression.

By reverse-engineering Facebook's Android app, Jane Manchun Wong was able to spot Facebook's early testing.

"Currently, with this unreleased feature, the like/reaction count is hidden from anyone other than the creator of the post," she wrote in a blog post.

"The list of people who liked/reacted will still be accessible, but the amount will be hidden.

"Interestingly, likes/reaction counts on comments are not yet hidden for now. But this could be due to the nature of this feature being in an early stage of development."

And Facebook confirmed to Australia's 7 News on Tuesday it is "considering testing" removing from public view the number of likes and reactions a post gains.

However, its spokesperson wouldn't say when testing would be rolled out. Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, is already testing the feature in seven countries, including New Zealand.

In July, Instagram said this was an attempt to remove some of the competitive nature of the app. 

"We want Instagram to be a place where people feel comfortable expressing themselves," said the director of policy for Facebook ANZ, Mia Garlick. 

"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." 

Wong thinks that Facebook is ensuing suit for similar reasons, and would be "beneficial" for a large chunk of users.

"By hiding the like/reaction counts from anyone other than the post creator, users might feel less anxious about the perceived popularity of their content," Wong wrote on her blog.

"Studies have shown that social media use may influence mental health, including leading to depression and anxiety."