Study: YouTube's "Dislike" and "Don't Recommend" Buttons Are Virtually Useless

A new study by Mozilla has shown that YouTube is ignoring user feedback about things they don’t like. The authors came to this conclusion after studying the data of 20 thousand users of the service.

Study participants used the RegretsReporter extension. It superimposed a special button on top of the interface, which could be pressed after seeing an uninteresting video. But the type of feedback sent to Google was different: an arbitrary option was chosen from “Dislike”, “Not interested”, “Do not recommend videos from this channel”, “Remove from browsing history”.

There was also a control group of people from whom the feedback did not go away at all. The participants didn’t know exactly what they were clicking, but the researchers saw all the data.

As a result, it turned out to analyze 500 thousand recommended videos. Of these, the researchers identified 44 thousand pairs of videos: the first was marked by the user as uninteresting, the second – the next recommendation after this action. These pairs were reviewed manually and using a machine learning algorithm to determine if the recommendation was similar to previously tagged content.

At best, pressing these buttons helped to cut off half of irrelevant content, at worst, it had almost no effect on recommendations.

Compared to the control group, clicking the “Dislike” and “Not interested” buttons blocked only 12% and 11% of unwanted recommendations, respectively. “Don’t recommend videos from this channel” and “Remove from watch history” were more effective at preventing 43% and 29% of bad recommendations, but it’s still not good enough.

The researchers believe that YouTube should respect user feedback more and take it as an indication of how users want to spend their time on the platform.

YouTube spokeswoman Elena Hernandez has already commented on this report. According to her, the researchers did not take into account the principles of the service algorithms, which is why the results cannot be considered correct. In particular, YouTube does not attempt to block entire themes and worldviews from a video marked as uninteresting, as this can ruin the user experience.

So, the “Not interested” button removes a specific video from recommendations, and “Do not recommend videos from this channel” removes individual users, but such feedback does not have the task of disabling all recommendations of similar content. Hernandez noted that YouTube welcomes independent platform research, but it’s not possible to use Mozilla’s data to draw firm conclusions.

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