YouTube has announced that it will temporarily hide how many ‘dislikes’ a video has received. The news went down poorly online, but President Joe Biden’s social media team might be happy with the change.
At a glance, the number of thumbs down a YouTube video has received can tell a user to steer clear. The video could be boring or misleading, or the creator could say something so unpopular that thousands of viewers log in to downvote it to oblivion. Then again, mass downvoting campaigns have been launched against some users, and YouTube claims to have listened to these users’ pleas.
The video platform announced on Tuesday that it would be hiding the number of dislikes on videos for some users over the coming weeks, as part of a “small experiment” launched “in response to creator feedback around well-being and targeted dislike campaigns.”
👍👎 In response to creator feedback around well-being and targeted dislike campaigns, we’re testing a few new designs that don’t show the public dislike count. If you’re part of this small experiment, you might spot one of these designs in the coming weeks (example below!). pic.twitter.com/aemrIcnrbx
— YouTube (@YouTube) March 30, 2021
Viewers will still be able to dislike videos, but only creators will be able to see how unpopular their content is.
Creators and viewers took to Twitter to complain about the experiment. “No one wants this,” Nerdrotic, a pop-culture YouTuber tweeted. “Dislikes are helpful for a great many things and this is what puts YouTube above all others.”
“If twitter had a dislike button, you guys could see how much everybody hates this,” YouTuber Drew Gooden tweeted.
No one wants this. Dislikes are helpful for a great many things and this is what puts YouTube above all others. By all means keep making decisions without asking a broad cross section of creators. How about making it our choice if you care so much for our well being.
— Nerdrotic (@Nerdrotics) March 30, 2021
Amid the online freakout, some commenters suggested that President Joe Biden might be happy to see dislikes disappear from YouTube. Since Biden took office in January, every single video posted by the White House has gotten more dislikes than likes. Oftentimes, videos of Biden speaking earn more than ten times as many thumbs down as thumbs up.
“Official White House YouTube team gonna be overjoyed at this,” right-wing pundit Paul Joseph Watson tweeted.
Just admit you are protecting Biden from further embarrassment. Feedback from audience is crucial to running a channel. But you will make this decision knowing it’s a terrible one and do it anyway. Fuck YouTube and fuck big tech. https://t.co/PP67S2kgmR
— Woke Societies (@wokesocieties) March 30, 2021
Translation: #Biden Youtube manager is suffering from “ratio depression” on #BeijingBiden videos and in order to disguise the massive amount of dislikes on his videos, youtube changes their platform 🤣🤣🤣 https://t.co/EDWiQ3XG7y
— 🖤🧡Super Straight Michael Oxbigg IV – PHD, Esq. (@MichaelOxbiggIV) March 30, 2021
It is, of course, unclear if Biden’s social media team provided the “creator feedback” that YouTube cited as reason for hiding dislikes. A significant number of dislikes on Biden’s videos may come from disaffected Trump voters, but Trump himself never saw a like-dislike ratio quite like Biden’s, despite the level of public opposition to his presidency.
Checking Trump’s videos is now impossible, however. The former president was banned from YouTube in January, when every major social media platform booted him for allegedly inciting a crowd of followers to riot in the US Capitol to protest Biden’s electoral win.
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