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YouTube’s ‘dislike’ button has minimal impact on algorithm, researchers say

·2-min read
 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

YouTube’s ‘dislike’ button is not an effective way to stop the video website from recommending content, researchers have suggested.

A report from the Mozilla Foundation described how analysis of over 567 million YouTube video recommendations with the help of 22,700 participants revealed the dislike button reduced recommendations by only 12 per cent.

Pressing the “Don’t recommend channel” button was 43 percent effective, the “not interested” button was 11 percent effective, and a user removing a video from their watch history was 29 percent effective.

Many users documented feeling powerless to change their recommendations. “They change for a time, but reappear later on again. Some recommendations seem to be driven by trend [sic] created by larger audiences…The algorithm favours these trends and overwrites individual selections. I do not think it creates a general profile of individual users, or if so ignores it after a while”, one participant said.

“Eventually it always comes back,” added another. “The algorithm seems incapable of remembering a lesson for very long.”

Mozilla concluded that YouTube’s user controls “aren’t designed in a way that allows people to actively design their experience on the platform” and leave people “confused and frustrated” as they resort to trial-and-error to make the algorithm work for them.

YouTube did not respond to The Independent’s request for comment before time of publication but told the New York Times: “Our controls do not filter out entire topics or viewpoints, as this could have negative effects for viewers, like creating echo chambers.

“Mozilla’s report doesn’t take into account how our systems actually work, and therefore it’s difficult for us to glean many insights.”

YouTube removed the dislike count on videos in 2021 to reduce “dislike attacks”, where groups of people work together to try and drive the number of dislike as high as possible.

YouTube own “Rewind” videos – which recap trends on the platform over the year – had also become one of the most disliked video ever.

However, YouTube’s algorithm has been criticised on occasions when it directs users towards extreme content. A tool called the TheirTube project allows people to “step inside someone else’s YouTube bubble” by showing them videos recommended by YouTube, and revealed how users can quickly be pushed towards conspiracy theories.