A Change.org petition calling on YouTube to reverse its decision to deprecate its community contributions feature later this month has now reached 500,000 signatures.
The social media platform announced that it was removing the tool – which allows viewers to caption and subtitle videos – on 28 September, due to spam and low usage.
The milestone was reached as the hashtag #DontRemoveYouTubeCCs trended on Twitter in the UK and US on Monday.
Tay Sonday, who went viral on YouTube with his song, Chocolate Rain, said in a tweet: “‘Chocolate Rain’ on Youtube has been community-captioned in Spanish, French, Korean, Japanese, German, Russian, Hebrew, Arabic, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Turkish . . .
“Could they all say “Tay Zonday eats sawdust?” I don’t know. But [YouTube] should keep them!”
Meanwhile, creator Mac Kahey, known online as MacDoesIt, said in a thread that he hopes the tool is replaced by something “more efficient than their automated system”.
“I do have a meeting with some Ytube peeps tomorrow and I wanna talk about what their plans are, it’s uncomfortable to think they will just leave it to the creators themselves or the automated system so I hope they have a bigger plan,” he said.
In its description, the petition says there is “a great many people” who rely on captions on the platform.
“Some viewers are hard of hearing, some have audio processing disorders, and some watch content created in a language other than their own.
“Community captions have allowed these communities to come together and enjoy content they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to. Removing community captions locks so many viewers out of the experience.
“We’re calling on Google to reverse the decision to remove the community captions feature,” it concludes.
Plans to scrap the feature were first revealed on YouTube’s Creator Insider channel in April, where Product Manager James Dillard said in a video: “The reason that we’re considering it ultimately comes down to not that many creators are ultimately using it.”
James went on to reveal that less than one-thousandth of a percent of channels approved a community captions track in the last month prior to the video going live, while around 0.2% of watch time comes from a video with a community caption track selected.
The final decision was announced in July, when YouTube said the tool would be removed at the end of September.
In an article on the YouTube Help website, an employee confirmed that no other tools on the platform are going away, other than community contributions.
Creators will still be able to add manual captions to videos, and automated subtitles generated by YouTube’s automatic speech recognition software will also remain available.
The employee went on to add: “If you have contributions currently saved as drafts, these will be available for the next 60 days (until Sept 28 2020), and you have until then to publish them before they’re removed.
“Any already published contributions (titles, descriptions, captions, etc) will continue to show up on videos and can be managed by Creators in YouTube Studio.
“We know many of you rely on community captions and thanks to the feedback we received, YouTube will be covering the cost of a 6 month subscription of Amara.org for all creators who have used the Community Contribution feature for at least 3 videos in the last 60 days.”
Many YouTubers later criticised the platform’s decision, with deaf campaigner Rikki Poynter saying in a recent video that the platform has “screwed over” the deaf and disabled community.
“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.
Responding to #DontRemoveYouTubeCCs, Rikki called on people to not just listen to hearing YouTubers commenting on the issue.
“I’m happy to see things picking up again but One [sic] thing I wish people could’ve listened to deaf/disabled people when we tried to get this trending… how many times?
“Why do our efforts and words go ignored? (I know why.)
“Deaf and disabled creators and viewers have been talking about this for years,” she added in a follow-up tweet.
Other creators who have also spoken out against YouTube’s announcement include Phil Lester (known online as ‘AmazingPhil’) and Hank Green of the channel, Vlogbrothers, who said removing the feature without “replacing the good with it is kinda inexcusable”.
While YouTube published an unlisted video addressing concerns over the announcement, the company is still yet to respond to the criticism – including the #DontRemoveYouTubeCCs hashtag – publicly.
Commenting on the petition in August, 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.
Update: When approached by this website for a statement about the #DontRemoveYouTubeCCs hashtag, YouTube declined to comment.