New Mozilla research shows that Youtube’s ‘dislike’ button doesn’t work as initially planned

Even when YouTube users say they’re not interested in certain types of videos, similar recommendations keep coming, new Mozilla research shows.

Mozilla researchers found that buttons like “not interested”, “dislike”, “stop recommending channel” and “remove from browsing history” are ineffective in preventing similar content from being recommended. Those buttons still allowed more than half of the recommendations to be similar to what users said they weren’t interested in, the report found.

The survey involved 22,722 volunteers who installed the RegretsReporter extension in their web browsers. That extension would change the functionality of the dislike button in such a way that clicking the button would randomly assign survey volunteers one of the actions such as “I’m not interested,” “I don’t like,” “no recommend my channel” and “remove from browsing history”. In addition, there was a control group where clicking the button did nothing.

Compared to a control group, sending “I’m not interested” and “I don’t like” signals was only “marginally effective” in preventing bad referrals. The “do not recommend channel” and “remove from watch history” buttons were slightly more effective. Researchers say the tools offered by YouTube are still inadequate to deter unwanted content.

YouTube says its systems are working as intended. “Mozilla’s report doesn’t take into account how our systems actually work, so it’s hard for us to gather much insight,” YouTube spokeswoman Elena Hernandez told Wired, adding that viewers are in control of their recommendations. This includes “the ability to block videos or channels from being recommended in the future.”

Apart from YouTube, other platforms like TikTok and Instagram have introduced more user feedback tools to train the algorithm to show them relevant content. However, users often complain that even when they flag something they don’t want to see, similar recommendations remain.

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