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Thumbs Up to YouTube Dispensing with Thumbs Down

As discussed previously in "Speaking Privately to the Algorithm"

“YouTube has announced that it’ll be hiding public dislike counts on videos across its site, starting today,” reports Mitchell Clark in the Verge (“YouTube gives dislikes the thumbs-down, hides public counts.”)

This is good. The dislike button on YouTube has long been a distraction. It usually takes the form to the viewer of something along the lines of “Who are the 3 people who disliked this versus the 840 who liked it?”

YouTube experimented with this move earlier in the year, as, also at the Verge, Ian Carlos Campbell reported, in a piece titled “YouTube is experimenting with hiding dislikes to protect creators’ well-being.” I do think that article’s framing of the situation was mistaken, in that I don’t think it’s about “creators’ well-being,” at least not entirely.

I pushed for this back in 2019, in a piece titled “Speaking Privately to the Algorithm,” where I asked, “What happens when we assume that always stating our opinion is in anyone’s best interest?”

I think it comes down to this, as I wrote at the time: The tools have trained us to let them know what we think, because it’s in our best interest (to train our flavor of the Algorithm). But is it in anyone else’s interest that you found the given musician’s music uninteresting?

And as for creators’ “well-being,” I’d wager that the dislikes count may actually go up, now that people won’t have any concern about a public reverberation of their rating. They’ll just click a down thumb as they do on Netflix and elsewhere, to register a personal preference, speaking personal truth to the Algorithm.

By Marc Weidenbaum

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