Why is YouTube blocking video dislike counts?

YouTube will be hiding the dislike count on all videos from public view, keeping the thumbs-down button but hiding the overall count of how many other people have clicked it. The decision follows a trial to YouTube to see whether masking negative feedback would make for less harassment, as well as reentering exactly what it was added for in the first place.

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That experiment, run earlier in the year, saw YouTube make a slight tweak to its UI. While the thumbs-up and thumbs-down buttons remained, as did the publicly visible count of people who signaled that they’d liked a video, the count of those who hit dislike was hidden.

It was intended, YouTube says, “to see whether or not changes could help better protect our creators from harassment, and reduce dislike attacks — where people work to drive up the number of dislikes on a creator’s videos.” The end result seemed to support that theory. YouTube says it saw “a reduction in dislike attacking behavior,” and received positive feedback in particular from smaller and newer creators, who can be quickly dissuaded from uploading by early negative feedback.

As a result, YouTube now plans to remove the dislike count across the board. It won’t be hidden in one fell swoop, but should start disappearing from today.

While YouTube may be obscuring the dislike count from video viewers, creators won’t be spared the feedback. The YouTube Studio will still show just how many people clicked each button, a useful metric as they decide what topics to cover and what video styles might be more or less popular.

It’s also worth noting that ample use of the dislike button for its intended purpose – communicating to the YouTube algorithm just what you don’t want to see in future – will continue working too. While you may not see how many other people agreed with your opinion, YouTube says that your click will be taken into account by its recommendation engine in future.

“We want to create an inclusive and respectful environment where creators have the opportunity to succeed and feel safe to express themselves,” YouTube added of the decision “This is just one of many steps we are taking to continue to protect creators from harassment. Our work is not done, and we’ll continue to invest here.”

It comes amid ongoing concern about how social media and video platforms – such as YouTube – are used for harassment and abuse. We’ve seen the Alphabet-owned video site clamp down in recent months on fake news and pseudo-science, including targeting climate change deniers and vaccine misinformation, while a new “supervised account” type was launched in February to give parents more control over just what their tweens and teens could – and could not – access.