YouTube uses a variety of different algorithms within their database. Whether it is to display recommended or popular videos or ones related to videos you have previously watched, the online video streaming website converts these patterns into your personal settings. There are many advantages and disadvantages to the algorithms and how they are constructed for some. Biases towards different factors can be seen through different accounts. With factors that include paying for a boost of popularity, thumbnails, and watch time can lead to inaccurate results.
The YouTube algorithm makes its decisions based on multiple of factors which include: view count, upload date, likes, and watch time. YouTube videos with more likes or view counts will be higher up on the list of recommended videos. Also, by using the amount of time that you watched certain videos, the YouTube algorithm will output less or more of the same type of videos. By using this information, the algorithm can output back to the user videos that it thinks the user may like.
Biases come into play with these algorithms and YouTubers can even exploit these biases in order to cheat the system and get their videos suggested more. It is possible for channels to pay money to YouTube so their videos will be displayed first in searches. Because YouTube defines popular videos by the number of likes and views it has, videos with misleading “clickbait” type thumbnails or titles can draw viewers in even if the video was not exactly what they were searching for. This would be biased against honest YouTube channels whose video content is more relevant to the user’s search. Lastly, YouTube uses the length of time most users watch a video to determine whether or not to suggest it to other users. This would be biased towards shorter videos because if people only have five minutes to spare, they can watch a five minute video all the way through but only watch a 10 minute video half way. This gives the first video a 100% completion rating while the second video only gets a 50% completion rating which makes that video look less interesting in the eyes of the algorithm, which may not have actually been the case.
If left unchecked, the YouTube algorithm can create an unfair disadvantage for smaller YouTubers with less resources. Their videos will be less likely to come up during searches and appear in recommended videos because they have less views and clicks. The YouTube algorithm can also encourage controversial or dangerous behavior as these are the kinds of videos that get the most clicks and views. This is how controversial YouTubers like Jake Paul and Logan Paul became popular.
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