YouTube is making its longstanding dislike button private.
YouTube has today confirmed via a post on its official blog that the company will remove the dislike counter across all of its videos. The post goes into the rationale for the counter’s removal, but the short version is that it has been repeatedly used as a cudgel by audiences that disagree with a particular view or creator.
YouTube experimented with removing the dislike count earlier this year to see if hiding the number of dislikes would reduce the occurrence of targeted dislike campaigns. It did.
The internal research showed that, though the dislike button is useful in certain situations, it has become a way to brigade a creator or specific video. It transforms likes and dislikes into an awful game, and the numbers become a scoreboard.
This is a tactic similar to that of review bombing on aggregate sites like Metacritic or Rotten Tomatoes. On those sites, users with an axe to grind will deliberately tank a title’s overall score by overrunning its page with negative reviews.
On YouTube, the barrage of dislikes tells the algorithm that the video is of low quality and suppresses its reach.
In this way, the most basic tools social media platforms use to define content quality — the upvote and the downvote — have been weaponised in a way the platform owners did not expect.
Another interesting data point from YouTube’s research was that people didn’t seem to be using the like and dislike count as a metric for quality anyway. Indeed, the data suggested that people were still watching whether they could see the dislike counter or not.
So YouTube is sweeping it out of the way.
Creators will still be able to see the dislike counter on the Studio Analytics page under the Engagement tab, but the number will no longer be user-facing. Users will still be able to use the dislike button to tell the algorithm what they like and what they don’t as normal.
YouTube has framed the decision as a way to better protect creators on its platform from harassment and bullying.
The change has already begun rolling out across the platform and may take some time before it is fully implemented.