YouTube’s ‘Dislike’ and ‘Not Interested’ buttons don’t protect users: Mozilla study

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New Delhi, September 20 (IANS): YouTube buttons like “not interested”, “dislike”, “stop recommending channel”, and “remove from watch history” are ineffective in preventing the recommendation of similar content and its user controls don’t work for many people, Mozilla researchers have found.

The team behind the open-source web browser Firefox has heard from several people who have expressed frustration with user controls and said they want better tools that just work the way they expect.

“People feel that using YouTube’s user controls doesn’t affect their recommendations in any way. We’ve learned that many people take a trial-and-error approach to controlling their recommendations, with limited success,” the report said. .

He added that Google’s YouTube user controls are inadequate to prevent unwanted recommendations.

“We determined that YouTube’s user controls influence what is recommended, but this effect is negligible and most unwanted videos still play,” the researchers noted.

YouTube is the second most visited website in the world and its algorithm drives the most video views on the platform.

Previous Mozilla research has determined that people are regularly recommended videos they don’t want to see, including violent content, hate speech, and political misinformation.

In new research, the team evaluated the effectiveness of these controls for real users of the platform.

Powered by Mozilla’s RegretsReporter research tool, 22,722 people gave away data about their interactions with YouTube, representing the largest experimental audit of YouTube by independent researchers, powered by crowdsourced data.

They looked at what happened over time to user-recommended videos after using one of YouTube’s commenting tools: buttons like “Dislike” and “Do not recommend channel” .

The researchers said YouTube’s user controls should be easy to understand and access.

“People should be given clear information about the actions they can take to influence their recommendations, and should be empowered to use these tools,” they noted.

YouTube should design its commenting tools so that people are in the driver’s seat. Feedback tools should allow users to proactively shape their experience, with user feedback having more weight in determining which videos are recommended.

“YouTube should improve its data access tools. It should provide researchers with access to better tools to assess signals that impact YouTube’s algorithm,” Mozilla’s report said.

YouTube says users can control their recommendations and search results through the feedback tools offered by the platform.

However, people still see unwanted videos despite following YouTube’s prescribed steps to avoid them.

The researchers said YouTube should respect user feedback about their experience, treating it as meaningful signals about how people want to spend their time on the platform.

“YouTube should overhaul its ineffective user controls and replace them with a system in which people’s satisfaction and well-being are treated as the most important signals,” they said.

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