YouTube has made a controversial decision to hide the number of dislikes a video has, as it finds itself in a quandary between protecting creators from abuse and allowing viewers to make informed decisions on what they watch.
The video sharing site announced and explained the move last week in a video presented by YouTube Creator Liaison Matt Koval. Ironically, the video has been swamped with dislikes – over 166,000 of them at the time of writing, which is almost 12 times the number of likes it has received.
Koval explains that YouTube has observed an occasional technique of groups of people swarming a video with dislikes, usually due to a personal vendetta against the creator rather than because they don’t like the content of the video, and it wants to stop likes and dislikes becoming a “game with a visual scoreboard”. He stresses that it will still be possible to dislike videos, and doing so will have an effect on users’ recommendations, but the dislike count will only be visible to the content creator, who will have to actively seek it by going into the backend.
It’s easy to sympathise with YouTube and see this as a well-intentioned move. It should prevent the unhealthy tactic of “dislike bombing” and alleviate the stress and unhappiness some users feel when their videos are disliked – an important consideration with this being Anti-Bullying Week. Koval also points out that most other social media sites don’t have a dislike button, and never have done.
Many users, however, argue that the barometer of likes and dislikes acts as a good indication of the quality of a video, and saves the viewer sitting through a long video only to find that it doesn’t offer what they were hoping for. In fact, many of the most popular comments on the video point out that this move could lead to clickbait and misinformation thriving on the platform.
Personally, I’ve always found the dislike counter on YouTube helpful when trying to find useful content. When I use YouTube to look for football highlights, I often find that there are videos with a thumbnail of a football match or stadium, but the video itself will simply be a link to a streaming site, or sometimes even footage of somebody playing a football video game like FIFA 22. In these cases, the number of dislikes is a signal of a poor-quality video, and doing away with it could increase the likelihood of creators piggybacking on popular search terms to promote worthless or misleading content.
The issue of coordinated dislike attacks and the mental effect they have on creators is not to be taken lightly, but many YouTube users, like Chris Burton quoted in this BBC article, argue that the overwhelming majority of users are not misusing the dislike function in this way. Koval, himself a prolific YouTube creator, admits he was unaware of this issue, which suggests it is an isolated concern, rather than a prevalent issue. Perhaps YouTube would be better off trying to target the orchestrators of these campaigns, rather than removing a feature the majority of people are using responsibly?
But what do you think? Does YouTube hiding dislikes get a “like” or a “dislike” from you?
Regardless of whether dislikes are visible or not, YouTube will no doubt still be using them to determine whether videos are worth watching, so it remains important not to skimp on quality. At Engage Web, we can help you create high-quality, sharable videos and other web content, so why not speak to us for advice?