YouTube will no longer display a video’s “dislike” count to the public, the company announced today via blog post. You’ll still be able to hit that dislike button when you aren’t a fan of the content, but only creators will have the power to see how many people have done so. Some users will see the change today; it will roll out across all of YouTube gradually in the coming weeks.
This marks a pretty significant change in the general YouTube experience. Like and dislike counts have been displayed somewhat prominently beneath every video for years now. Because it’s so simple to click that dislike button, though, it was also all too easy for it to be abused as a form of attack.
YouTube began testing the dislike removal for some users earlier this year. The test confirmed the company’s suspicions: Users were less likely to target videos with dislike attacks when they couldn’t see the results of their efforts displayed before them.
YouTube knows this struggle well — YouTube says it’s heard from creators with smaller followings and users new to the site that they feel they’re hit hardest by targeted attacks. The change will, YouTube hopes, affect those users the most.
YouTube itself is no stranger to dislike attacks, nor is it to general hate communicated through the dislike button. In fact, the most-disliked YouTube video ever is one of YouTube’s own uploads: 2018’s YouTube Rewind currently sits at 19 million dislikes. Those millions of clicks on the dislike button even forced YouTube to shut down the Rewind program entirely. Other big-time creators have seen their videos be bombarded by dislikes as well. Justin Bieber’s “Baby” music video has more than 12 million dislikes. Nintendo’s Expansion Pack trailer — uploaded less than a month ago — has more than 173,000 dislikes.
Toward a more peaceful internet — This change will not affect the dislike button’s core functionality. You’ll still be able to hit that dislike button to communicate your discontent. Creators will still be able to see just how many people are sending them hate clicks. The public just won’t be able to watch the numbers run up.
This choice is reminiscent of Twitter’s still-ongoing test of a downvote system. Users can click the dislike button beneath a tweet to communicate their feelings, but the number of dislikes won’t show up in the way likes and retweets do. The goal is essentially the same: Give users the option to show they don’t like it without leaving it ripe for abuse.
Our understanding of the internet is very much still evolving. It always will be; there’s simply too much growth to ever comprehend all of it. One pattern we’ve finally latched onto, though, is that ease of use we build into our communication tools is the very thing that allows bad actors to carry out their abuse. And our favorite platforms are finally beginning to hold themselves accountable for it. Beginning to.