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On some YouTube videos, particularly highly downvoted ones, I often see comments asserting that their dislikes on the video are being deleted, either by YouTube or the channel itself.

From the Gillette "We Believe" ad:

Fake dislike count: 761k of dislikes.. Real (but censored) dislikes count: 2.6M of dislikes..

Fake likes, and removing dislikes. I will Never buy Gillette again, i hope they go out of business.

I disliked the video. But, it is automatically getting undisliked. YouTube is being dishonest.

Without YouTube's cloak of censorship, this video would have about 3 million dislikes.

Anyone else noticing that the downvotes are diminishing? As I write, the downvotes are 138,153—yet when I first saw this video a few minutes ago, they were at +140,000 downvotes. Is Susan Wojcicki massaging the numbers at Gillette's urging? Inquiring minds want to know.

A post from the Google Product Forums:

What can be done to stop YouTube's moderators from deleting another 3 MILLION dislikes and another 3 MILLION comments they don't agree with for political reasons from this video?

Reddit: YouTube removing dislikes from rewind:

Don’t be dumb... youtube caches dislikes so that there main servers don’t get pounded with millions of people doing this. Dislike once and wait maybe a hour and check later, it will be there.

I just disliked, and it was at the same number they’re definitely deleting shit

Reddit: Blizzard somehow just deleted 100k dislikes from their Diablo announcement video

Bottom line: when there's a lot of automated activity, Google comes in every now and then and scrubs the data of anything that looks suspect. Not shockingly (given that 4chan has been heavily involved in the uproar) there are a lot of bots involved in this process.

People are saying maybe they cleared bots but why didn't the likes go down either, at least by SOME amount.

So my questions are:

  • Is it true that the number of dislikes on a video can and does decrease en masse over time? (It seems to be true.)
  • What might be the cause of this? Can a channel delete dislikes? Does YouTube have an automated algorithm that deletes dislikes that seem to be from bots? Does YouTube remove dislikes if you haven't watched 80% of the video? (Obviously, it's possible that users might decide to all undo their downvotes later, but that seems implausible.)
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    Please only answer with actual evidence and not personal theories such as "they do it", "it's an anti-fraud script", "it's eventual consistency", etc. Skeptics is not the place for speculation and personal opinions, but for reporting facts. We delete answers which are not reference based. – Sklivvz Jan 17 at 8:14
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    Note that there most probably will be no official detailed answer. Google doesn't want you to game the ranking system (which likes and dislikes are part of), so they will be intentionally vague about its inner workings. Much like SO won't tell how exactly the vote reversing script works. – Dmitry Grigoryev Jan 17 at 12:02
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    It should be noted that Youtube would be reasonably justified in trying to reject likes/dislikes produced by "bots". Whether this is their only motivation, and whether they are doing a reasonable job of it, however, is impossible to judge from this distance. – Daniel R Hicks Jan 17 at 13:43
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    SE does the same thing. – coteyr Jan 17 at 17:13
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    The Diablo dislikes disappeared because Blizzard re-uploaded the video and changed the URL in the launcher. its fairly well understood what happened with the diablo announcement. – Polygnome Jan 18 at 12:34
198

Yes, they do. They will also delete likes.

However, the comments quoted and the general complaints on that video about dislikes going away are based on the claim that Gillette is either paying YouTube to delete dislikes, or that Gillette is doing it, itself.

One reason why YouTube deletes some likes and dislikes is because people often use likes, dislikes, followers, etc on social media to boost their own agendas or careers, so faking or manipulating popularity or unpopularity is pretty common.

To this end, there are business set up with individuals manning banks of devices so a person can deliver hundreds of "clicks" for a paying customer, low tech, or can set up automated programs/bots to simulate activity from different users, for the same result.

Low-tech Chinese Click Farm

To give you a general definition of clicks farms, they can be defined as:

An undercover operation in which individuals fraudulently interact with a website to artificially boost the status of a client’s website, product or service.

This basically means that somewhere in the world there are people that work behind closed doors fraudulently promoting other peoples products and services for a fee. Since the definition is fairly broad, this means that the fraudulent activity can take place on almost any platform although the most popular ones are Facebook and Instagram. It doesn’t matter if the group is selling Facebook likes of Twitter followers, they’re all classed as click farms.

PPC Protect: What is a click farm

It is in the interest of social media platforms to identify this kind of fraudulent manipulation to maintain their own integrity. So in this case, where people who don't like Gillette's ads are seeing nefarious manipulation by either Gillette, or YouTube as a paid proxy for Gillette, really it's the opposite - they are rooting out and screening nefarious and fraudulent activity that they identify.

As noted in another answer -

You may see like/dislike counts change as some may be marked invalid and periodically removed from the counts. Learn more about our Likes Policy.

YouTube: Likes and Dislikes report

Clicking on the "likes policies" hyperlink takes you to -

Artificial Traffic Spam

Anything that artificially increases the number of views, likes, comments, or other metric either through the use of automatic systems or by serving up videos to unsuspecting viewers, is against our terms. Additionally, content that solely exists to incentivize viewers for engagement (views, likes, comments, etc) is prohibited.

YouTube:Spam, deceptive practices and scams policies

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    really it's the opposite - they are rooting out and screening nefarious and fraudulent activity that they identify., or at least that's what they claim. The only thing we know is that they do remove dislikes at their own discretion. – sgf Jan 27 at 16:25
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    @sgf - no we don't know that. That makes it sounds like there's someone at a screen "nope, don't like that.... that's okay" - while they may set the parameters for what they feel is fraudulent or misleading, creating an algorithm to root that out removes much of the discretionary aspect and makes it a more objective one. We know that likes and dislikes are removed. We know what they disclose about their policy. "At their own discretion" implies something that is not a given, either. – PoloHoleSet Feb 7 at 16:34
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    Well, it implies that they judge what falls within their policy without asking anyone outside their company holding them accountable. And I don't see anything in your sources to the effect that they pledge to let all dislike removals be done by algorithm. – sgf Feb 10 at 16:00
  • @sgf - While I'm sure there is some manual intervention, in response to requests, given the size of YouTube, and their parent company, and how their parent company operates all of their business, are you really suggesting that Google uses manual labor for the bulk of this kind of maintenance? – PoloHoleSet Feb 11 at 15:34
168

YouTube itself says that it can remove dislikes. From Likes and Dislikes report:

You may see like/dislike counts change as some may be marked invalid and periodically removed from the counts. Learn more about our Likes Policy. [outdated link]

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    I think an answer like this requires more information, as it caries possible implication that YouTube has an agenda, which may or may not be accurate. The quote contains reference to a like/dislike policy, and I would think more information should be included from that (even if you have to find a newer link.) – trlkly Jan 19 at 2:21
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    @trlkly the answer does not carry any implication, you are putting it in. – Sklivvz Jan 19 at 8:39
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    Indeed, the answer does not carry any implication, but I think the question cites claims that have some implications. While this answer does address the title-part of the question, it lacks details and insights to allow evaluation of the claims. – Pac0 Jan 19 at 14:11
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    Exactly. It carries the implication forward from the question itself, since it does not refute it. The answer is quite short and thus does not Answer much of the question. I offered suggestions on how to improve this. – trlkly Jan 19 at 14:14
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    I don't think this answers the question. It answers whether or not YouTube can delete dislikes, and it implies an answer to the title of the question, but the question itself also asks about channels deleting likes and whether YouTube does delete them for political and personal reasons. – TheWanderer Jan 19 at 16:27
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Yes, YouTube moderators can delete Likes and Dislikes.

Cinema of Change tracked the responses to the Gillette video over a short period.

With the help of YouTube’s API and Archive.fo’s screenshots of the video’s public numbers, we were able to test the claims of whether Gillette’s dislike and comment count were being subject to unusual moderator deletion.

[...]

Graph comparing filtered versus non-filtered likes

Some of the figures that were mentioned in the claim in the question are exaggerated / not verifiable.

For Gillette's new ad, the deletion statistics (last in the chart below) are as follows:

  • 5,396 Likes (0.80%)
  • 57,399 Dislikes (4.58%)
  • 174,162 Comments (34.23%)

If you're looking for the record-holder of dislike deletions, that's Blizzard with its Diablo Immortal trailer: 220,624 Dislikes deleted (23.33%)

overall deletion chart

Gillette deleted a potentially historic fraction, 34%, of its comments on the “We Believe” video. Blizzard removed 220,000 dislikes on its worst received game trailer, and YouTube banned 21% of the comments on the latest Rewind video

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    Just an FYI for anyone wondering how "More t.a. Refugee" can have a negative number of comments deleted - the article's author is equally confused: "“More than a Refugee” somehow has more comments publicly displayed than the server-side API query counted – I’m not sure how that’s even technologically possible". Maybe that's a reason to question their methodology, but otherwise this looks reasonable. – user568458 Jan 25 at 8:56
  • While adding a "Yes" is indeed an improvement, I don't think "YouTube moderators" is the right term. I would say "Yes, YouTube can and did remove some likes and dislikes from this video." Otherwise, this is a high quality secondary answer which shows a good amount of effort. (A secondary Answer is my term for one that does not attempt to completely answer the question but adds additional information not given in the top or Accepted Answer.) Good job. – trlkly Jan 25 at 11:23
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    @trlkly unlike stack exchange were moderators are elected and are just regular users with special privileges moderators on youtube are actual employees of youtube. So the statement that moderators are deleting votes (human based deletion) rather than youtube itself deleting them (automated scripts) is hardly a notable difference. Note that without direct response from youtube itself nobody can actually know whether a human went through those votes and cleaned them up or an algorithm did or if an algorithm reported them and then adjusted manually. It certainly makes no difference here. – The Great Duck Jan 26 at 2:14
  • @TheGreatDuck I agree there is not much practical difference. However, the Answer itself makes the distinction important. It claims that a "moderator" can "delete" votes. This addition makes the Answer inaccurate. Nothing from the data indicates that an actual YouTube moderator is deleting votes--it could be an algorithm. Furthermore, the term "YouTube moderator" is not unambiguously an employee. It can refer to someone given moderator powers by the channel owner. (See also "Twitch chat moderator".) As such, I believe this is a bad term that makes the Answer less accurat than before. – trlkly Jan 26 at 8:51
  • @trlkly No that would be a channel moderator. A youtube moderator means someone who moderates youtube, which would be employed by youtube. Saying a moderator can delete them does not mean they do delete them. They can delete the votes. A human component has to be in the system somewhere. It didn't pop out of the void so clearly any automated algorithm has access to the same things the company has access to. Whether a human did delete the votes or regularly delete the votes is different than saying they are capable. They have to be otherwise the algorithm can't do it either. – The Great Duck Jan 26 at 17:04
17

It's been previously documented that "glitches" can also alter the like/dislike ratio on a large scale, for example, a Justin Bieber video (including, bizarrely, adding dislikes to likes), so it's entirely possible:

https://heavy.com/social/2013/05/youtube-glitch-removes-dislikes-adds-likes/

Given YouTube control the stats behind the scenes, they can hypothetically do anything on likes/dislikes (similar to the 301 views cap). As for why it might be occurring, one can only speculate just short of an internal leak.

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    What is the "301 views cap"? – MJ713 Jan 18 at 22:05
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    @MJ713 It used to be that a video on YouTube would get stuck at 301 views no matter how many there were for about a day or so. It had something to do with how often they polled it or something. I think they fixed it when they changed the maximum number of views before Gagnam Style broke it. – Azor Ahai Jan 18 at 22:37
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    @MJ713 Until some time ago, YouTube only checked views after the video had more than 300. When a video got 301 views, it would get stuck on that number for some hours while all views were being validated. This was highly noticeable when popular channels launched a new video and it nearly immediatly reached the 301 views cap. Nowadays the views are validated immediatly. twitter.com/YTCreators/status/628958720953819136/photo/1 – Edu Jan 20 at 19:26

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