YouTube’s dislike button would not be effective for checking suggested content. Mozilla claims that based on its own research. According to the research, the button prevents “less than half of the unwanted algorithmic recommendations.”
Mozilla based the investigation on data from the browser extension RegretsReporter. It allows users of the extension to “donate” their YouTube recommendations for use in studies like Mozilla’s. In total, the survey is based on more than 500 million analyzed videos and questionnaires completed by more than 2,700 participants.
The company tested the effectiveness of four different features: the dislike button, and the options ‘not interested’, ‘don’t recommend channel’ and ‘delete from watch history’. The researchers found that these features were effective to varying degrees, but the overall effect was “inadequate.”
Of the four options, “do not recommend channel” was the most effective. According to the research, it prevented 43 percent of unwanted recommendations. “Not interested” is the least effective, blocking only 11 percent of unwanted suggestions. The dislike button has an effectiveness of 12 percent and “remove from watch history” removed 29 percent of the unwanted recommendations.
In their research report, Mozilla researchers point to the effort respondents sometimes have to make to avoid unwanted recommendations, such as watching videos while logged out or connected to a VPN. The scientists believe that YouTube should better explain its tools to users and give people more options to decide what they want to see.
“The way YouTube and many other platforms work is that they collect a lot of data to infer your preferences,” said Becca Ricks, a researcher at Mozilla and co-author of the research report. “But it’s a bit of a patronizing way of working, where you make choices on behalf of users. You could ask them what they want to do on the platform instead of just watching what they do.”