On January 29th, YouTube’s director of project management, Tom Leung, stated that the company was looking at ways to suppress dislikes on videos. Mr. Leung stated that YouTube was discussing either not showing the number of dislikes on a video, making it harder to dislike the videos, or even removing the dislike feature entirely. It was also made clear that none of these features are in place and they may never become permanent, but the company is simply experimenting. This announcement has been met with a strong reaction from both sides, as users and content creators disagree on whether the dislike button represents the sharing of opinions or unjustified hate.
YouTube claims that the removal or suppression of dislikes is in response to “dislike mobs”, or large groups of people who dislike a video without watching it. Videos may become targets of dislike mobs if a large group of people dislike their creator or if the topic of the video is controversial. The only reason the people in these mobs select a video is to immediately dislike it without actually watching the video itself. Numerous dislikes can prevent the YouTube algorithms from showing a video on recommended lists, resulting in a massive decrease in viewership. This can affect content creators of any size, as a video suppressed under a mountain of dislikes and watched by few people is effectively wasted time for the people who made them. YouTube claims that these features may discourage or even prevent dislike mobs, and the action is solely to the benefit of the content creators.
On the other side of the debate, many users claim that YouTube is trying to suppress negative feedback. These users state that the company is only removing dislikes to hide one of their biggest mistakes: YouTube Rewind 2018. At the end of each year, YouTube produces a “rewind” meant to showcase what happened on the website over the past year. 2018’s rewind was widely considered a disaster. While the YouTube Rewind is intended to be relatable to most of the website’s audience, many users claimed that the 2018 version showed YouTube’s fantasy and just how disconnected the company is from the viewers. Because of this, YouTube Rewind 2018 swiftly became the most disliked video on the website. As of the writing of this article, the video currently has over 16 million dislikes, dwarfing the 2.5 million likes. Many users find it suspicious that these options to suppress or remove dislikes are being announced within two months of one of YouTube’s own creations becoming the most disliked video on the website. Some go as far as to call the action censorship, claiming that removing dislikes also removes the opportunity for constructive criticism.
So what do you think? Are dislikes biassed and hateful, or are they useful and necessary?