Left without the numeric indicator, the Dislike button is apparently also ignored by YouTube algorithms

According to the official explanation, the purpose of the Dislike button is to show YouTube creators how unhappy viewers are with the video. At the same time, the platform’s algorithms should take this very important indicator into account, stopping YouTube users from recommending disliked content.

According to a study published by the Mozilla Foundation, YouTube algorithms are “responsive” to the use of the Like button, but almost completely ignore the Dislike button. Thus, watching a YouTube video in its entirety, combined with giving it a Like, is likely to bring you many more videos on that topic in your YouTube feed. On the other hand, in addition to the fact that hiding the numeric indicator makes it completely useless for appreciating the discovered content, the use of the Dislike button is most likely ignored by both the owner of the respective channel and the YouTube algorithms.

Based on a survey of 2,757 respondents and crowdsourcing data for 567 million video recommendations collected between the end of last year and June 2022, the analysis shows that YouTube suggestions are not really influenced by the use of the Dislike button. This would explain, for example, why all sorts of videos depicting scenes of violence or abuse manage to go viral despite predominantly negative reactions, persisting in YouTube recommendations. Although the researchers admit that the survey respondents are not a representative sample of YouTube’s large and diverse audience, a third of those surveyed said that using YouTube buttons did not seem to change their video recommendations at all. Furthermore, manually reporting videos as misleading content or as SPAM does not seem to have an effect either, with videos reappearing in the YouTube feed. According to respondents, blocking YouTube channels does not help either, with the platform’s algorithms pulling up recommendations from other similar channels.

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The fact is that YouTube algorithms often recommend videos to users that they don’t want to see, bringing up violent content, hate speech and political misinformation. Thus, using the “Dislike” or “Not interested” buttons stopped only 12% and 11% of unwanted recommendations respectively, compared to a control group. The use of “Don’t recommend channel” and “Remove from watch history” buttons was more effective at correcting user feeds, but only in 43% and 29% of the cases studied respectively.

“In our analysis, we determined that the control mechanisms available to YouTube users are inadequate as tools to prevent unwanted recommendations,” Mozilla researchers wrote in their study.

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Expressing YouTube’s view, spokesperson Elena Hernandez said, “Our controls do not filter out entire topics or viewpoints, as this could have negative consequences for YouTube users, creating the effect of an echo chamber.” According to her, YouTube’s algorithms do not prevent the recommendation of all content from related topics, but push “authoritative” content, while suppressing “borderline” videos that come close to violating content moderation policies.

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