YouTube Doesn’t Really Care About Your Dislikes, Study Finds
What do you want to know
- A new study from Mozilla suggests that YouTube’s feedback tools don’t effectively prevent bad recommendations.
- Unwanted types of videos continued to appear even after test participants had previously disliked similar content.
- Over 20,000 YouTube users participated in the study, which analyzed over 500 million videos.
YouTube users have generally tried to customize the types of videos they see on the platform by pressing certain buttons, but it seems that YouTube’s feedback tools have little or no influence on the video recommendations that appear on its homepage, according to a new study.
Mozilla published new findings (opens in a new tab) which suggest that YouTube’s “dislike” and “not interested” buttons, among other commenting options, barely work. According to data from over 20,000 YouTube users, the platform’s controls don’t make them feel like they have control over content recommendations.
According to the study, the “Dislike” button blocked only 12% of unwanted video recommendations, while the “Not Interested” button prevented only 11% of recommendations marked as uninteresting by users.
In contrast, using the ‘Do not recommend channel’ and ‘Remove from watch history’ buttons appeared to be more successful in stopping bad recommendations, with 43% and 29% of unwanted recommendations blocked, respectively.
Responses were collected through Mozilla’s RegretsReporter browser plugin which allows users to opt out of specific types of video recommendations. Over 500 million videos have been analyzed. Mozilla used a combination of ratings by its search assistants and machine learning to identify “bad recommendations,” which are suggestions for videos similar to those previously rejected by study participants.
In the end, the study reveals that none of the platform’s methods effectively prevent unwanted videos from appearing on the homepage. On the other hand, this implies that more than half of the bad suggestions are passed.
The report comes as the YouTube Partner Program has expanded to include more creators, including those on YouTube Shorts who have at least 1,000 subscribers and 10 million Shorts views in the last 90 days.
Mozilla’s findings could lead to accusations that YouTube is willing to ignore user feedback in order to improve viewing statistics for creators. That said, YouTube said it can’t completely block recommendations that a user has indicated they don’t want to see.
“We give viewers control over their recommendations, including the ability to prevent a video or channel from being recommended to them in the future,” YouTube spokeswoman Elena Hernandez told Android Central. “It’s important to note that our controls do not filter out entire topics or viewpoints, as this could have negative effects for viewers, such as creating echo chambers.”
Mozilla finally called out Google for what it described as “ineffective user controls”. The organization recommends that YouTube give users more control over how they shape their experience. Mozilla adds that these methods should be easy to access and easy to understand.
“YouTube should provide researchers with access to better tools to assess signals that impact YouTube’s algorithm,” Mozilla added.
“We welcome academic research on our platform, which is why we recently expanded data API access through our YouTube research program,” Hernandez said.
The YouTube spokesperson also criticized Mozilla’s study for not “taking into account the actual operation of our systems, and therefore it is difficult for us to glean a lot of information”.