The move is meant to protect content creators from harassment.
On Thursday, YouTube announced its decision to make the “dislike” count in videos private across its entire site, in an effort to combat harassment experienced by content creators in its platform.
The decision, according to YouTube, is to curb cases of “dislike attacks,” a form of targeted harassment where a group gangs up on a content creator by driving up the number of dislikes their video receives.
According to an experiment YouTube conducted in July 2021 wherein it hid the dislike count from the public, the Google-owned platform concluded in its November 10 blog post that doing so dissuaded threats of “dislike attacking behavior,” which usually preyed on “smaller creators and those just getting started” on the platform.
“We want to create an inclusive and respectful environment where creators have the opportunity to succeed and feel safe to express themselves,” YouTube said in its statement.
Nonetheless, YouTube clarified that “the dislike button is not going away.” Viewers will still be able to fine-tune their recommendations based on their liked and disliked content as well as privately share their feedback with creators.
Content creators will still be able to find their exact dislike counts along with other existing metrics in YouTube Studio. They are also still able to toggle off both likes and dislikes, although doing so would mean they couldn’t benefit from the algorithm’s positive engagement.
This isn’t the first time that a major social media site has chosen to hide metrics that convey the general public’s sentiment on content posted on its platform. For instance, Instagram has also tested hiding likes in 2019 to hopefully improve the mental health of its users. Currently, Facebook also lets its users hide the exact reaction counts on their posts.
Albeit seeming altruistic, YouTube’s initiative wasn’t taken as warmly by users as they would’ve wanted.
While some teased that the site removed the feature out of spite after its 2018 Rewind video became the most disliked video on the platform, some also aired more legitimate concerns over the inhibition of freedom of speech and expression.
“[Removing the dislike count] basically makes dislikes completely meaningless,” one Twitter user said when the removal was first introduced back in March. “The results could very well be that highly controversial videos still get wildly popular but without an immediate indication as to why it might be controversial.”
This also means that users can no longer replicate scenarios such as when Nintendo Switch Online drew flak — which came in the form of massive dislikes on YouTube — for its steep price tags and buggy systems.
Some also pointed how removing the dislike count could really contribute to the creator’s mental health, considering that they can still see the sum on their end.