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Community Captions Approval Led to ‘Less Usage’, YouTube Says

Changes to community captions last year led to a decrease in use of the feature, according to a YouTube spokesperson.

Creators had to approve the viewer-submitted subtitles and translations before publishing from August last year, after YouTuber JT flagged that individuals were using the feature to spam and self-promote on larger channels.

However, the spokesperson told this website that while it led to “less spam”, the feature also caused “less usage” and shifted the issue of spam onto creators, which is “not the experience” they want for YouTubers.

Their statements also corroborated comments made in a Creator Insider video released last week, which saw Vice President of Product Management Ariel Bardin reveal that a free six-month subscription to captioning site Amara for users of the tool may be extended.

“We are thinking about potentially making that period of time longer and obviously, as we get towards the end of the six months, we’ll know where we are with these different features […] and we can make a decision there,” he said.

When asked whether users would be expected to pay once the free-trial ends, the YouTube spokesperson said paying for the feature includes controls over who posts to a channel, but the free version including their subtitle editor is available.

One of the new caption features revealed by Creator Insider included the ability to caption through YouTube’s permissions setting, which would allow other individuals access to different sections of a channel’s YouTube Studio.

The spokesperson confirmed that the ‘Editor (Limited)’ role, announced last month, would include “more than just captions”, with titles, thumbnails and descriptions also available.

They added that the setting is currently “in the works” and is therefore “not a perfect replacement”.

The series of responses from the YouTube spokesperson come as criticism of the platform’s decision to axe the feature – announced on Thursday – continues online.

Amongst those voicing concerns are K-Pop fans and members of the VTuber community. Short for Virtual YouTuber, the creators – often Japanese – produce video content whilst computer generated characters are overlaid on top of them.

Following YouTube’s announcement, viewers have shared their thoughts on Twitter, with several messaging to say that community captions removed the need for them to repost translated content elsewhere, taking views away from the original creator.

One contributor, with the Twitter handle @nbhikari, writes: “With the addition of [the feature], subbers like me no longer had to reupload the works of songwriters, and could instead add them directly to the video.

“With the removal of community [closed captions], we would have to go back to that practice.”

In response to a question around the impact the axing of community translations can have on a video’s international reach, they said that they would “encourage creators to use automatic captioning or manual captioning”, with automatic captions generated by speech recognition available in languages such as English, French, Korean, Russian and Spanish.

The spokesperson went on to stress that “translations aren’t going away” and that YouTube is “continually working to improve the technology” behind the feature, alongside introducing new languages.

Meanwhile, a petition on the website Change.org calling for YouTube to reverse the move stands at over 320,000 signatures at the time of writing.

Commenting on the petition, YouTube said they are “always listening to feedback” from creators and members of the community, adding that they are taking it into account “as we plan the future captioning features” on the platform.

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