Deaf campaigner and content creator Rikki Poynter has said YouTube’s decision to remove community contributions from its platform next month has “screwed over” the deaf and disabled community.
YouTube announced in July that the feature, which allows viewers to submit subtitles and translations to channels on the platform, will be axed next month due to spam and low usage.
Speaking in a video uploaded to her channel on Saturday, Rikki said: “This is bad. This is so bad.
“When I said in the previous video that this was like a huge f**k you to all of us, this is an even bigger one.
“Community contribution is what has given us so much accessibility. If we didn’t have this feature, so much more of YouTube would be inaccessible.”
YouTube’s decision comes after it published a video on its Creator Insider channel in April detailing plans to deprecate the feature.
It revealed that less than 0.001% of channels published a community captions track in the last month, while 0.2% of watch time in the same period came from videos where community captions were turned on.
However, Rikki went on to add that there are “a few things wrong” with the view that people aren’t using the feature.
“One, people are using it, and you know this because I’ve told you, the deaf community has told you and the disabled community.
“Basically, everybody who’s using it has told you and it’s a lot of people.
“Secondly, if anybody’s not using it, it’s because your system was always broken and we told you this, and you did absolutely nothing to fix it.
“If you have a broken system that you are absolutely refusing to fix or ignoring the problems, how do you think anyone’s going to actually use it,” she said.
Alongside issues over usage, YouTube staff also highlighted with spam, with commentary YouTuber JT flagging the abuse of community contributions in a video published last year.
- YouTube Axes Community Captions Feature, Citing Low Usage
- YouTube Community Captions Petition Surpasses 40,000 Signatures
- YouTube Releases Video Expanding On Decision To Remove Community Captions
- Community Captions Approval Led to ‘Less Usage’, YouTube Says
In response to concerns, YouTube went on to introduce a setting where creators had to approve subtitles and translations before they were published.
When asked about the level of spam after this process was put in place, a spokesperson for the platform said while it led to “less spam”, the feature also caused “less usage”.
They added that it also shifted the issue of spam onto creators, which is “not the experience” they want for YouTubers.
Commenting on the issue of spam, Rikki asked YouTube what they had done to attempt to fix it.
“I don’t think there was anything when we had our meeting,” she said.
Later on in the video, Rikki mentioned notifications, claiming that the platform’s notification system is “broken”.
She continued: “Your notification system is broken when it comes to sub boxes [and] your notification system is broken when it comes to receiving subtitle files.
“I remember way back when – every once in a while, this is actually very rarely – I would get an email that says, ‘hey, you’ve got a translation waiting to be approved’.
“I don’t get those, and since everything is kind of hidden and all wonky in the new Creator Studio, nobody’s really gonna be able to see that.
“So of course, nothing’s gotta get approved when we don’t even know if there’s something there to begin with.”
With YouTube removing community contributions on 28 September, the platform announced that a free, sixth-month subscription to third-party captioning site Amara will be made available to eligible creators.
In an unlisted video on Creator Insider, Product Manager James Dillard said YouTube looked at “third-party solutions” which would “allow them to bridge the gap from where we are today to some other solutions that we have planned in Product in the future.”
Responding to the remarks, Rikki said: “Community contribution was your bridge gap.
“Anything else that you’re thinking of is not going to work right now.”
Two of the “other solutions” planned by YouTube when it comes to captions in the future include a new captions editor and a permissions role for individuals to access certain parts of a creator’s dashboard.
Creator Insider announced new information about permissions in July, with endscreens being made available through the setting and “pretty soon, captions”.
While Rikki said she doesn’t hate the idea, she went on to reveal concerns about it being a “security risk” for creators.
“In one way, I like the idea of being able to have mods, like I said, but this seems like it’s too much for comfort.
“You might want to have someone that’s like a close friend do that, but if you were to have anybody else do it – even if you had a close friend do it – it would still be a risk, because you’re giving them permission to have all sorts of things.
“It’s like giving a stranger the information to my bank account, right?
“If there’s any bad blood that happens here, everything could just go wrong like that,” she said.
The American creator went on to add that she was open to the idea if permissions could be granted to access captions alone.
Concluding the video, Rikki raised concerns from others around captions for college students, as well as the impact automatic captions could have on sign language creators.
Automatic captions, which use speech recognition to generate a transcript, will remain available to creators after September, as well as the option for creators to upload captions themselves.
Rikki’s remarks are the latest in an ongoing debate around YouTube’s decision to deprecate community captions.
An online petition calling on the platform to reverse the move, posted on Change.org, currently stands at over 440,000 signatures at the time of writing.
This website has reached out to YouTube for comment on Rikki’s video and her concerns.
The full video is available to watch on Rikki’s official YouTube channel.
Photo: Rikki Poynter.