YouTube hides its ‘dislike’ count — Why some like it and others don’t6 min readReading Time: 4 minutes
The internet is a vast and fascinating place. There is so much to see, learn and understand about the world. But as much positivity there is on the internet, there is just as much negativity in the form of hate, spam, fake news and even crime!
Now, to deal with some of that negativity, Google decided to do something about it. Google’s platform YouTube recently announced its decision to make the ‘dislike’ count on videos private .
Why did the tech giant decide to do this?
Well, it’s because YouTube believes this change will better protect its creators from harassment and reduce the threat of what it calls “dislike attacks.” This essentially means when a group teams up to drive up the number of dislikes a video receives.
The company says that while dislike counts won’t be visible to the public, it’s not removing the dislike button itself. Users can still click the thumbs down button on videos to indicate their dislike to creators, but privately.
Creators will be able to track their dislikes in YouTube Studio, along with other analytics about their video’s performance, if they choose.
Why this change?
The change follows an experiment YouTube ran earlier this year, with the goal to determine if these sorts of changes would reduce dislike attacks and creator harassment.
YouTube explained that public dislike counts can affect creators’ well-being and mental health, and may motivate targeted campaigns to add dislikes to videos.
On the other hand, dislikes can also serve as a signal to others when videos are clickbait, spam or misleading, which can be useful in helping users stay away from certain kind of content.
YouTube said it had also heard from smaller creators and others who were just getting started on the platform that they felt they were being unfairly targeted by dislike attacks. Interestingly, the experiment confirmed this was true — creators with smaller channels were targeted with dislike attacks more than larger creators were.
YouTube’s Head Creator Liaison Matt Koval also shared a video explaining what led to the platform’s decision and added that the platform hopes this step would be a “big help” for content creators.
Watch Matt Koval talk about YouTube’s decision in the video below:
Not the first
The company is not the first major platform to experiment with the idea of reducing the public visibility of indicators that show user sentiment, especially negative sentiment. For similar mental health-related reasons, Instagram, a few years back, began tests to hide its ‘like’ counts. It believed the focus on achieving ‘likes’ could be harmful to its community and may make creators less comfortable expressing themselves on the platform. Ultimately, neither Facebook nor Instagram went ahead with the move.
Mental health matters
YouTube’s modifications to the ‘dislike’ count are being introduced at a time when there’s been focus on big tech companies and its impact on mental health, particularly when it comes to minors.
Not everyone is happy
While some content creators are welcoming this move, others are unsure how it will help at all. In fact, YouTube’s own co-founder Jawed Karim said that this is a “stupid idea”.
According to many YouTube users this has not been a right decision. To reflect his disapproval, Karim has updated the description of the first ever video uploaded to YouTube – Me at the Zoo. Jawed Karim wrote in the description, “While every YouTuber agrees that removing dislikes is a stupid idea, it’s probably true.”
Is there an alternative?
Back in 2019, then director of project management at YouTube, Tom Leung, said removing dislikes altogether isn’t “democratic” since “not all dislikes are from dislike mobs.” He suggested adding more detail to downvotes, such as clicking a checkbox as to why you don’t like this video.
However, he added that such a feature would be complicated to build. So, YouTube abandoned this effort, and decided to hide dislike counts as the right way forward.
Can you think of an alternative to hiding the dislike count on YouTube? How can we protect the interests and well-bring of content creators so that they don’t have to face online harassment and trolling?
Sources: Network18, Tech Crunch, Quartz