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Turns out YouTube doesn't really care that you dislike a video

You're better off choosing "don't recommend channel" or "remove from watch history."
By
September 20, 2022
an image of the youtube app on android showing the like and dislike count on a video
Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority
TL;DR
  • A Mozilla study found that YouTube’s “dislike” button was ineffective against bad recommendations.
  • The best official solution was to choose “don’t recommend channel.”
  • However, even YouTube’s best solution wasn’t great at blocking these suggestions.

YouTube gives users a number of ways to control what they see on the service, with one of the most visible methods being the dislike button. However, a new study has revealed that hitting “dislike” hardly worked in preventing bad recommendations.

A Mozilla study used an open-source web extension called RegretsReporter to gather insight into YouTube recommendations (h/t: Engadget) from thousands of users.

The data showed that the “dislike” button only stopped a mere 12% of unwanted video recommendations. The team defined a bad or unwanted recommendation as a video similar to a video they had previously rejected.

Ineffective controls across the board?

Mozilla’s study also showed that choosing “not interested” stopped just 11% of bad recommendations, while choosing “remove from watch history” stopped 29% of them. However, the most effective official way to halt bad suggestions was to select “don’t recommend channel,” preventing 43% of unwanted recommendations.

In other words, none of YouTube’s controls allowed you to prevent even half of all bad recommendations. In fact, some users noted that they took other measures like switching to incognito mode, using VPNs, downloading privacy browser extensions, and regularly wiping their cookies. Some users even created brand-new accounts for certain YouTube videos.

Are you happy with YouTube's recommendations?

2687 votes

This is a rather disappointing turn of events for YouTube, and it suggests that the company is willing to ignore explicit feedback about its recommendations in a bid to increase viewing metrics. After all, you’d think that hitting something as obvious as the “dislike” button would adjust recommendations accordingly.

So what should the company do about this? Well, Mozilla called on the Google-owned platform to create more accessible, easy-to-understand user controls. It also noted that YouTube should give more weight to user feedback with its existing controls.