YouTube today announced its decision to make the “dislike” feature private videos on its platform. The decision is likely to be controversial given the extent to which it affects public visibility on video reception. But YouTube believes the change will better protect its creators from harassment and reduce the threat of so-called “dislike attacks,” basically when a group joins in to increase the number of dislikes that receive a video.
The company says that while the dislike counts won’t be visible to the public, it’s not removing the dislike button itself. Users can still click the thumb down button of the videos to indicate that the creators don’t like it privately. In the meantime, creators will be able to track their dislikes on YouTube Studio along with other analytics on the performance of their video, if they wish.
The change comes after an experiment YouTube did earlier this year aimed to determine whether such changes would reduce disliked attacks and harassment by creators.
At the time, YouTube explained that dislikes from audiences can affect the well-being of creators and can motivate campaigns aimed at adding dislikes to videos. While this is true, dislikes can also serve as a signal to others when videos are rude, spam, or misleading, which can be helpful.
YouTube said it had also heard of smaller creators and others just starting out on the platform who thought they were being unfairly attacked by the disliked attacks. The experiment confirmed that this was true: creators with smaller channels were targeted for attacks I don’t like more than larger creators.
However, YouTube declined to share specific details or data collected through these experiments when TechCrunch requested it. But he said he did his tests for “several months” and conducted “in-depth impact analysis” on how the changes affected both users and creators.
The company had experimented with different designs to eliminate dislike counts, including one in which the word “dislike” appeared under the thumb down button instead of the dislike number. This is the design the company has now decided on, which is a less disruptive change to the row of engagement buttons below a video.
The company would not be the first major platform to experiment with the idea of reducing the public visibility of signals that convey user sentiment. For similar reasons related to mental health, Instagram a couple of years ago began testing to hide its Like count globally. He believed that the goal of achieving Like could be detrimental to his community and could make creators feel less comfortable expressing themselves on the platform. Ultimately, however, neither Facebook nor Instagram could fully commit to a decision and instead put the power of hiding the Likes back under user control, a move that effectively kept the status quo intact. .
YouTube’s changes to the “I don’t like” count are being introduced at a time when there has been a public account about big technologies and their impact on mental health, especially when it comes to minors. Companies have been rethinking how their systems are designed to target and influence their user base, as well as what kind of changes they can make before the next regulations. In several markets, lawmakers have dragged technology executives to audiences, including YouTube, and are drafting legislation aimed at reigning in some of the most problematic elements of technology. However, mental health is only one area of regulatory interest, along with ad targeting, privacy, algorithmic momentum of misinformation, and more.
In the case of YouTube, the company has tried to anticipate some of the changes needed by implementing enhanced privacy protections and features for 13- to 17-year-old users, while reducing the potential for monetizing content for children. “unhealthy.” But the biggest change in the market is also pushing companies to consider other areas of their platforms that are potentially toxic to large groups of people.
That said, YouTube told TechCrunch that today’s removal of the dislike count is not guided by any regulatory change, but by its support for creators.
“We’re making this change proactively because YouTube has a responsibility to protect creators, especially the little ones, from harassment and antipathy attacks,” a spokesman said.
The company, of course, is also implementing it when the battle for the talent of creators is becoming very competitive among the tech giants. Today’s social platforms are setting up funds to retain their main creators amid rising competition, especially because of TikTok’s growing threat. YouTube this year announced a $ 100 million fund for creators to boost its short-form video platform, for example. And, over the last year, several new features and policies have been introduced aimed at improving the creator’s experience.
Starting today, changes to the dislike count will be implemented worldwide on the YouTube platform, including all devices and the web.