Earlier this month, video sharing service YouTube, which is now the second-most-used platform online, announced that while the “dislike” button would remain, the actual dislike count would be made private.
“To ensure that YouTube promotes respectful interactions between viewers and creators, we introduced several features and policies to improve their experience,” the company announced via a blog post. “And earlier this year, we experimented with the dislike button to see whether or not changes could help better protect our creators from harassment, and reduce dislike attacks — where people work to drive up the number of dislikes on a creator’s videos.”
YouTube added that it had heard directly from smaller creators, as well as those just getting started, and said that many felt they were often unfairly targeted by efforts to increase the number of dislikes. According to the company, going forward creators will still be able to see their exact dislike counts, along with other metrics, which could allow those creators to determine how their content is performing and even how to improve it.
However, the number of dislikes for a video won’t be shared publicly.
YouTube explained the updates via a video:
A new report released this week from data platform Thought Leaders highlighted how this could impact “How To” and “Crafts” videos, a category that has seen the highest ratio of dislikes. The study found that average total engagement per video (likes + dislikes) has steadily increased over the past decade, yet dislikes have increased far faster than likes. Moreover, videos that had brand sponsors were likely to see 14 percent fewer dislikes on average, while gaming has seen the lowest percentage of dislikes in proportion to total engagement, with just 2.8 percent of reactions being dislikes.
While the removal of public dislikes could help the creators, there is the argument this is also about helping YouTube by getting more eyeballs on videos – even ones that could disappoint some viewers. The lack of “dislikes” means there is no quick public review of the user-generated content.
“The more I think about YouTube’s claim that the removal of the dislike count was done to protect the smaller creators, the more I feel nothing could be further from the truth,” explained Amit Altman, head of publisher relations at Thought Leaders.
“First of all, since YouTube does not do enough to combat click baits or spam content, the like to dislike ratio was the only indication the content you’re about to see is what the creator promised you, an important factor that many high-quality independent creators have now lost,” added Altman. “Secondly, the claim that this was done to protect the smaller creators from dislike attacks is also completely false.”
Altman, who works with dozens of professional full-time independent YouTubers, said that none of them have ever been a victim of a dislike attack.
“The ‘victims’ of dislike attacks are almost exclusively large corporations on YouTube, and there are plenty of examples to back that claim, whether as a form of protest against a polluting corporation, movie fans showing their disdain to a disappointing trailer, or even YouTube themselves with the #1 and #6 all-time disliked videos – trust me those videos are pretty bad,” Altman suggested.
While unwarranted dislikes may have been a problem, Altman said is minor to other issues on the video-sharing platform. “Mental health in the digital space and cyberbullying are serious issues that need proper attention, and YouTube has a paramount responsibility to protect its creators as well as their users, and I fail to see how this move helps to deal with these issues.”