01: A Deadly Fail
I started searching for “fail videos” where people fall or get a little hurt. 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.
02: “I Don’t Know How To Undo the Damage That Has Been Done”
My 10-year-old sweet daughter innocently searched for “tap dance videos” and now is in this spiral of horrible extreme “dance” and contortionist videos that give her horrible unsafe body-harming and body-image-damaging advice. I’ve tried to go in and manually delete all recommended videos, put in parental controls, everything (including blocking the app) — but she’s finding ways to log on using browsers and school computers. These terrible videos just keep being recommended to her. She is now restricting her eating and drinking. I heard her downstairs saying “work to eat! work to drink!” I don’t know how I can undo the damage that’s been done to her impressionable mind.
03: Stallions Doing Mares
I like watching horse sports videos, or horse care information. YouTube keeps pushing stallions doing mares at me — not my interest at all. No one has ever watched any porno on my personal machine, so having it pushed at me feels upsetting and degrading.
04: YouTube’s Drag Race
I used to occasionally watch a drag queen who did a lot of positive affirmation/confidence building videos and vlogs. Otherwise, I watched very little that wasn’t mainstream music. But my recommendations and the sidebar were full of anti-LGBT and similar hateful content. It got to the point where I stopped watching their content and still regretted it, as the recommendations followed me for ages after.
05: How I Lost My Father
My stepfather is an 80-year-old retired scientist from Ecuador. He was always curious about all sources of wisdom, theories and knowledge, is very literate and educated, enjoys discussing current events and scientific discoveries. But for a few years, he has become quite lonely and spends a large amount of time on the internet — and on YouTube in particular. His curious mind quickly brought him toward “alternative theories” on multiple topics: conspiracies, Illuminati and other alien-based stories, Bible-inspired as well as radically anti-religious obscure worldviews, “pyramidologists”, etc.
Despite the fact that we tried to erase his YouTube history and “clean” his browser, his recommendations are completely filled by these kinds of esoteric videos, with those recognizable synthetic (TTS) voice-over commentaries, endlessly proposing a similar video after another. He sometimes falls asleep while watching. His days are filled by such content, which has quite strongly affected his worldview toward a much grimmer and more pessimistic turn. It seems impossible for us, his family, to fight against the recommendation algorithms that steers his digital consumer life. It is quite sad and frustrating to see a loved one bury oneself more and more into this kind of obscure, negative and extremely confidence-depriving influence.
06: How I Lost My Father, Part II
My father, before his passing, thought aliens were already living among us in disguise, that he could eliminate his heating bill with a new “free energy” device, and that UFOs were all over the place. He showed me YouTube videos that “proved it.” I spent hours trying to explain to him that YouTube is full of “free energy” scams, that the best UFO is maybe a shitty little DARPA toy, and that aliens among us in plain clothes was simply delusion caused by YouTube videos. He could not come to grips with why people could be dishonest, or why the FCC wasn’t doing their job, and trusted what he saw on his TV way too much. He was consuming YouTube on his TV and maybe thought the same FCC kind of government regulation he was used to was still present there. How much better could our time together have been if not for YouTube-induced delusions?
07: Ex Files
My ex-wife, who has mental health problems, started watching conspiracy videos three years ago and believed every single one. YouTube just kept feeding her paranoia, fear and anxiety one video after another. I kept begging her to stop, but she didn’t — she couldn’t. At one point she believed a helicopter near the house was the government coming to take her and my daughter away (they were really checking the power lines) and called in a blind panic. Now she’s convinced the world is going to end any day now and is an extreme religious fundamentalist. She refuses to even consider professional help because she no longer trusts anyone — especially doctors, the police and any government-run organisation. And YouTube just keeps feeding her more and more of the fear videos. My marriage is now over. Her extraordinary fear has totally consumed her and our life together.
08: One Small Step for Conspiracies
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.
09: It Gets Better
Any search for positive LGBT content results in a barrage of homophobic, right-wing recommendations. I can only imagine how harmful this would be to people still figuring out their identity.
10: Actually, It Doesn’t Get Better on YouTube
In coming out to myself and close friends as transgender, my biggest regret was turning to YouTube to hear the stories of other trans and queer people. Simply typing in the word “transgender” brought up countless videos that were essentially describing my struggle as a mental illness and as something that shouldn’t exist. YouTube reminded me why I hid in the closet for so many years.
Every now and then YouTube will continue to recommend me a video that tells me that my gender identity is wrong — and it reminds me of how much hate is squarely directed at me and people like me. I’m somewhat older, I’ve been dealing with these issues internally for a long time and I have therapy to work out these issues, but I can’t imagine what it’s like for those without access to help. Especially for younger trans and queer people who always risk having hate thrown at them on YouTube — a hate that Google time and time again has stood behind and has refused to take off of their platform. YouTube will always be a place that reminds LGBT individuals that they are hated and provides the means for bigots to make a living spouting hate speech. YouTube is a part of my pain in coming out and is a reminder of how terrible this world can be to those who are different. I have to be proud in spite of places like YouTube.
Original article link: https://foundation.mozilla.org/en/campaigns/youtube-regrets/