YouTube today announced its decision to make the “dislike” count on videos private across its platform. The decision is likely to be controversial given the extent that it impacts the public’s visibility into a video’s reception.
But YouTube believes the change will better protect its creators from harassment and reduce the threat of what it calls “dislike attacks” — essentially, when a group teams up to drive up the number of dislikes a video receives.
The company says that while dislike counts won’t be visible to the public, it’s not removing the dislike button itself. Users can still click the thumbs down button on videos to signal their dislike to creators privately. Meanwhile, creators will be able to track their dislikes in YouTube Studio alongside other analytics about their video’s performance, if they choose.
The change follows an experiment YouTube ran earlier this year whose goal was to determine if these sorts of changes would reduce dislike attacks and creator harassment.
At the time, YouTube explained that public dislike counts can affect creators’ well-being and may motivate targeted campaigns to add dislikes to videos. While that’s true, dislikes can also serve as a signal to others when videos are clickbait, spam or misleading, which can be useful.
YouTube said it had also heard from smaller creators and others who were just getting started on the platform that they felt they were being unfairly targeted by dislike attacks. The experiment confirmed this was true — creators with smaller channels were targeted with dislike attacks more than larger creators were.
YouTube declined to share the specific details or the data collected through those experiments when TechCrunch asked, however. But it said it ran its tests for “multiple months” and conducted “in-depth analysis of the impact” as to how the changes affected both users and creators alike.
The company had experimented with different designs for removing the dislike counts, including one where the word “Dislike” appeared underneath the thumbs down button instead of the number of dislikes. This is the design the company has now settled on, which is less of a disruptive change to the row of engagement buttons beneath a video.