Mozilla: YouTube’s Dislike Button Largely Fails To Stop Unwanted Recommendations

AmiMoJo shares a report from the Mozilla Foundation: YouTube’s user controls — buttons like “Dislike ” and “Not interested” — largely fail to help users avoid unwanted recommendations like misinformation and violent content, according to new research by Mozilla. An accompanying survey also found that YouTube’s controls routinely frustrate and confuse users. Indeed, Mozilla’s research found that people who are experiencing unwanted recommendations and turn to the platform’s user controls for assistance prevent less than half of unwanted recommendations.

This is especially troubling because Mozilla’s past research shows that YouTube recommends videos that violate its very own community guidelines, like misinformation, violent content, hate speech, and spam. For example, one user in this most recent research asked YouTube to stop recommending war footage from Ukraine — but shortly after was recommended even more grisly content from the region. The study, titled “Does This Button Work? Investigating YouTube’s ineffective user controls” is the culmination of months of rigorous qualitative and quantitative research. The study was made possible by the data of more than 20,000 participants who used Mozilla’s RegretsReporter browser extension, and by data about more than 500 million YouTube videos. These are the top findings, as highlighted in the report:
People don’t trust YouTube’s user controls. More than a third (39.3%) of people surveyed felt YouTube’s user controls did not impact their recommendations at all, and 23% felt the controls had a mixed response. Said one interviewee: “Nothing changed. Sometimes I would report things as misleading and spam and the next day it was back in […] Even when you block certain sources they eventually return.”

People take matters into their own hands. Our study found that people did not always understand how YouTube’s controls affect their recommendations, and so took a jury rigged approach instead. People will log out, create new accounts, or use privacy tools just to manage their YouTube recommendations. Said one user: “When the Superbowl came around … if someone recommended a particular commercial, I used to log out of YouTube, watch the commercial, and then log back in.”

The data confirms people are right. The most “effective” user control was “Don’t recommend channel,” but compared to users who do not make use of YouTube’s user controls, only 43% of unwanted recommendations are prevented — and recommendations from the unwanted channel sometimes persist. Other controls were even less effective: The “Not Interested” tool prevented only 11% of unwanted recommendations.

YouTube can fix this problem. YouTube has the power to confront this issue and do a better job at enabling people to control their recommendations. Our research outlines several concrete suggestions to put people back into the driver’s seat, like making YouTube’s controls more proactive, allowing users to shape their own experience; and giving researchers increased access to YouTube’s API and other tools. Further reading: YouTube Targets TikTok With Revenue Sharing For Shorts, Partner Program Expansion

Read more of this story at Slashdot.