If you suspected the YouTube dislike button did pretty much nothing, you may unfortunately be correct.
Worse, even “not interested” or “remove from watch history” might not influence the type of content YouTube serves you, according to this new study.
Research conducted by Mozilla found that most tools users have to control YouTube content are “ineffective”, preventing less than half of unwanted algorithmic recommendations.
YouTube’s recommendation algorithms are both opaque and controversial, as many privacy experts and civil rights advocates say the platform favors incendiary content and sends viewers into twisted echo chambers like alt-right feeds.
Now, with Mozilla’s study, critics have a new weapon at their disposal in the fight to make algorithms more open to scrutiny.
According to Mozilla’s research, which was using millions of recommended videos and some anecdotal reports from thousands of people, all the tools YouTube gives you to dislike a video or influence your feed are more or less ineffective.
What they found was this:
The YouTube “dislike” button prevented 12 percent of unwanted recommendations, while “not interested” was even less effective, preventing just 11 percent of unwanted videos.
The most effective way to stop seeing YouTube stuff you don’t want? The “Remove from watch history” feature stopped 29 percent of unwanted recommendations, which is good, but you want to choose the “don’t recommend from channel” if you want to stop seeing certain content. That option stopped about 43 percent of unwanted content.
Their findings were based on data gathered from RegretsReporter, a browser extension that lets Firefox users “donate” their recommendations data to help researchers find actionable insights. In the case of this study, the data of more than 22,000 Firefox users helped draw the conclusions.
“Nothing changed. Sometimes I would report things as misleading and spam and the next day it was back in. It almost feels like the more negative feedback I provide to their suggestions the higher bulls**t mountain gets. Even when you block certain sources they eventually return,” said one frustrated YouTube user quoted by Mozilla.
Why did Youtube remove the dislike button?
In short, YouTube removed the dislike button to protect content creators from abuse.
“At YouTube, we strive to be a place where creators of all sizes and backgrounds can find and share their voice. To ensure that YouTube promotes respectful interactions between viewers and creators, we introduced several features and policies to improve their experience. And earlier this year, we experimented with the dislike button 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.
We’re making the dislike counts private across YouTube, but the dislike button is not going away. This change will start gradually rolling out today.
As part of this experiment, viewers could still see and use the dislike button. But because the count was not visible to them, we found that they were less likely to target a video’s dislike button to drive up the count. In short, our experiment data showed a reduction in dislike attacking behavior,” wrote YouTube back in 2021 when they announced the removal of the dislike button.
How to add the dislike back to YouTube
Regardless of their reason, having the dislike bar on YouTube is super helpful in some cases, like when you’re looking at a product presentation or recipe. If the content creator turned off comments and YouTube doesn’t show dislikes anymore, it’s almost impossible as a viewer to discern if that content is quality or not.
Fortunately, there is a trick you can use to get the dislike count back on YouTube.
All you have to do is add an extension called “Return YouTube Dislike”. This is one of the best Chrome extensions for heavy YouTube users and has millions of installs already. You can either find it in the Chrome store or check out the official website here, where you get Return YouTube Dislike for any browser, from Firefox to Brave or Opera.