Remember Mozilla’s #YouTubeRegrets survey? Neither do I, but the company has parlayed it into a new browser extension called RegretsReporter, which collects info sent by users to investigate “why YouTube recommends what it does.”
A “YouTube Regret” is a complaint about a video that was recommended to you by YouTube’s algorithm. As Mozilla writes on its website, “With the RegretsReporter extension, you can immediately take action to send us recommended videos that you regret watching—like pseudoscience or anti-LGBTQ+ content.”
This all began last October when Mozilla shared 28 different anecdotes about bad YouTube recommendations, though to be fair the users seem to be at fault most of the time.
One person searched “fail videos” because they wanted to see people “fall or get a little hurt.” They proceeded to click on videos showing “minor” car accidents, which eventually led to videos of severe car accidents. Go figure. There’s a lot to be said for precision in the context of an online search. If I want to find an adwords agency in Sydney, for instance, that’s what I’m going to type in. Vague searches turn up mixed results.
In another #YouTubeRegret, a“10-year-old sweet daughter” who allegedly wanted to watch some tap dancing videos wound up taking a deep dive into “contortionist videos that give her horrible unsafe body-harming and body-image-damaging advice.” Now, this sweet daughter’s guardian says, she is “restricting her eating and drinking” and shouting “Work to eat! Work to drink!”
One guy even blames YouTube’s recommendations for his failed marriage. You see, “YouTube just kept feeding her [his wife] paranoia, fear and anxiety one video after another,” and now “she refuses to even consider professional help because she no longer trusts anyone.” So much for personal responsibility.
Anyhow, Mozilla now has the RegretsReporter, the goal of which, Mozilla says, is to discover the answers to burning questions like:
“What kinds of recommended videos do users regret watching? Are there usage patterns that lead to more regrettable content being recommended? What does a YouTube rabbit hole look like, and at what point does it become something you wish you never clicked on?”
Let’s hope we get the answers soon—the fate of the world hangs in the balance.