YouTube today announced its decision to make the “dislikes” count of videos private on its platform. The decision could be controversial because it affects the public’s ability to receive the video. But YouTube believes the change will better protect its creators from harassment and reduce the threat of what it calls “dislike attacks,” when a group works together. to increase the number of dislikes a video gets.
YouTube will remove the dislike feature of all videos
The company said that while the dislike count won’t be visible to the public, it hasn’t removed the dislike button itself. Users can still click the dislike button on the video to privately indicate that they don’t like the video. Meanwhile, creators can track their dislikes in YouTube Studio along with other video performance analytics.
This change follows an experiment that YouTube ran earlier this year with the goal of determining if these changes would reduce dislike attacks and harassment of content creators.
At the time, YouTube explained that the number of public dislikes can affect the mentality of content creators and other people can storm a certain video. But dislikes can also be a signal to others that a video is inflammatory, spammy, or misleading.
YouTube says it has also consulted with smaller content creators and those just starting to use the platform whether they feel they are being targeted by dislike attacks. And this test confirmed this to be true – creators with smaller channels are more targeted by dislike attacks than large content creators.
However, YouTube declined to share specific details or data gathered through those tests. But they say they’ve been running this test for “months” and conducting “in-depth impact analysis” to see how those changes affect both users and creators.
The company has been experimenting with different designs to get rid of the dislike count, including one with the word “Dislike” appearing below the dislike button instead of the dislike count. This is the design Youtube decided to use.
The company won’t be the first major platform to test the idea. For similar reasons related to mental health, Instagram a few years ago started experimenting hide the number of Likes globally. They believe that focusing on Likes can be detrimental to their community and can make creators more uncomfortable expressing themselves on the platform. In the end, however, neither Facebook nor Instagram could fully commit and instead put the right to hide Likes under the control of the user.
YouTube’s changes to “dislikes” are coming at a time when the public is debating the effects of technology on mental health, especially for minors. Companies have been rethinking how their systems are designed, as well as what types of changes they can make ahead of upcoming regulations. In some markets, lawmakers have drawn tech executives to the hearings — including YouTube — and are drafting legislation to regulate some elements of technology. However, mental health is only one area of public interest, along with advertising, privacy, misinformation and more.
In the case of YouTube, the company managed to get around some of the required changes by rolling out privacy-enhancing and protection features for users ages 13 to 17 while reducing monetization from YouTube. “unhealthy” content intended for children. But market shifts are also prompting companies to consider whether other features on their platforms affect others.
That is to say, YouTube says today’s removal of dislikes is not due to any regulatory change but rather in support of content creators.
“We’re proactively making this change because YouTube has a responsibility to protect creators, especially smaller creators, from harassment and dislike attacks,” the spokesperson said.
Of course, the company is also rolling this out as the battle for creators is becoming more intense among the tech giants. Today’s social media platforms are raising funds to retain their top creators in this landscape, especially from the growing threat of TikTok. This year, for example, YouTube announced a $100 million creator fund to launch its short video platform. And over the past year or so, the company has introduced a number of new features and policies aimed at improving the creator experience.
The dislike changes will be applied globally across YouTube’s platform starting today, including all devices and the web.