Mozilla Reveals 28 Incidents Where YouTube’s Recommendation System Miserably Failed


Last month, Mozilla started collecting opinions from users about YouTube’s recommendation system as part of its campaign #YouTubeRegrets. During the campaign, the company had mentioned that these opinions will be put up on the web or social media. Now, Mozilla has picked 28 stories from the campaign describing how people got stuck in YouTube’s recommendation rabbit hole.

I have picked a few stories from the list that sound scary and show how dumb the algorithm behaves at the same time. First up, we have the story of a person who allegedly searched for “fail videos”. Check out how YouTube recommendations got changed since then.

“I was then presented with a channel that showed dash cam videos from cars. At first it was minor accidents, but later it transitioned into cars blowing up and falling off bridges — videos where people clearly didn’t survive the accident. I felt a little bit sick at that point, and haven’t really sought out that type of content after that.”

YouTube’s algorithm doesn’t miss out on spreading conspiracy theories which might be inappropriate for a majority of people. Take a look at what a teacher has to say regarding the recommendation system.

“I’m a teacher and I watched serious documentaries about Apollo 11. But YouTube’s recommendations are now full of videos about conspiracy theories: about 9/11, Hitler’s escape, alien seekers and anti-American propaganda.”

While there is a dedicated website for kids now, people used to visit the normal YouTube website until a while back where people are served standard content irrespective of their age. This parent had a shocking revelation when he/she found out what kind of train videos his/her child had been exposed to.

“When my son was preschool age, he liked to watch “Thomas the Tank Engine” videos on YouTube. One time when I checked on him, he was watching a video compilation that -contained graphic depictions of train wrecks.”

In another incident, YouTube’s recommendations crossed all tolerable limits by showing adult content even while the person’s adult restrictions were turned on, as per his/her confession.

“I remember looking for yoga headstand videos in search. Recommendations started showing videos with images of naked woman doing headstands. This was when restrictions were on in my settings. I never looked for another such video. Then I looked for videos on Hinduism. And they started recommending very offensive videos with images like naked Draupadi having sex.”

If you’re interested to check out other stories, you may do so by visiting Mozilla’s YouTube Regrets campaign page here. So, have you been a victim of the YouTube recommendation system? Tell us in the comments.

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