YouTube fights comment spam in part by forcing channels to keep subscriber counts public. This could be harmful rather than helpful.
YouTube has understandable reasons for its recent decision to disable the option to hide the subscriber count, but it’s a questionable idea. The platform faces many issues that harm the user and creator experience. It’s admirable that YouTube usually tries to address the main issues, but this is one of those times when the solution might do more damage.
The issue at hand this time is spam in comments. People (or maybe algorithms made by humans) post comments on popular videos under accounts impersonating the creator of the video or a prominent member of a community associated with the content. The fake accounts usually have a username that closely resembles a more famous YouTuber, combined with a remote copy of the real account’s avatar or something similar. These accounts post an absurd amount of comments on every video and almost always try to catch other viewers some kind of phishing scam†
To address this issue, YouTube recently implemented a multi-step process. The edge report that the platform offers enhanced moderation options for creators so that they can more easily access features such as comment approval. The number of typical characters used in a screen name is reduced. The idea here is to make it harder to create fake accounts with names like Screen R@nt, for example. And finally, YouTube removes the option to hide a channel’s subscriber count. Fake accounts usually have low subscriber counts as they make no real effort to promote their channels, so this step is to make identifying these spoofers less difficult.
One of the biggest hurdles new YouTube creators face is gaining legitimacy within a community. Regardless of the person’s target audience, YouTube is big enough that inevitably there is someone already posting that genre of content and probably hundreds of thousands of views† Smaller channels then have to fight YouTube stars by offering something big names don’t, but even then most viewers pay more attention to content from channels with a high subscriber count. For example, it’s hard for a cooking channel with 30 subscribers to appear authoritative when every related video comes from a channel with 200 million subscribers. For this reason, it may benefit the smaller broadcaster to hide its numbers.
In addition, some YouTube communities are inherently competitive or combative. For example, creators from other teams often post content to the eSports scene. Naturally, a team with a higher subscription base gets more respect and attention, which can have financial consequences. In YouTube’s fitness community, creators are constantly competing to maintain a reputation as a more reliable source of information. There are even channels that exist solely to help raise money for charities that can lose support because some users feel that a channel with a high subscriber count should do the trick good enough of YouTube revenue to exceed the need for donations.
The heart of YouTube is in the right place here. Some of the platform’s biggest creators have posted content outside of their usual territory to specifically target spam. Aesthetically, it also makes YouTube look unprofessional and poorly managed. However, it is worth taking the time to present alternatives to this approach to keep the door open for YouTubes next rising star.
Source: The edge
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