YouTube has announced that it is experimenting with hiding dislikes to discourage “dislikes bullies” from deliberately downplaying videos from creators and channels. The experiment is a different implementation than the solutions the company had previously discussed, but it is similar to other attempts such as platforms that Instagram has taken to sip targeted attacks in the bud.
In the current layout, statistics for both likes and dislikes can be displayed on a creator’s individual YouTube Studio page, but only likes are displayed publicly on a video. In a support article explaining the test, YouTube says that dislikes can have a negative impact on creators̵
In response to feedback from creators about well-being and targeted dislikes campaigns, we test a few new designs that do not show that the audience does not like the number. If you are a part of this little experiment, you can spot one of these designs in the coming weeks (example below!). pic.twitter.com/aemrIcnrbx
– YouTube (@YouTube) March 30, 2021
The creators rely on likes and dislikes as a form of feedback to guide their creative production, but just like purposefully giving a game a bad review on Steam, it’s easy to do what could be a useful feature to another surface for abuse. When YouTube first announced that it was investigating how to solve dislikes, it considered three ideas: hiding the numbers for both likes and dislikes, adding more friction to dislike something by demanding extra interaction, or removing likes and dislikes altogether.
This test makes half of the first option promised, and it makes some sense. If the problem dislikes numbers, why not just hide them and see what happens? Instagram experimented with a similar type of test when it decided to hide likes on posts. Obviously, likes are inherently positive, but hunting for a hay as a number can have its own negative impact on creators whose livelihoods depend on close monitoring of interactions with the posts and appear well-liked.
YouTube tests do not hide dislikes on all creators’ videos, but if you notice them on your page, or if you have an opinion as a viewer, YouTube collects feedback on the site.