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Revealed: YouTube Spoke To Three Deaf Creators About Community Captions Deprecation

A YouTube spokesperson told Liam O’Dell that out of 37 creators spoken to about the platform’s plan to scrap community contributions, three were deaf or hard of hearing.

In a series of comments provided to this website, they said that detailed feedback was obtained from the deaf and hard of hearing community after a video calling for feedback was published on YouTube in April.

The new information revealed to Liam O’Dell come just days ahead of the date in which YouTube plans to remove the feature, which is on Monday.

Speaking in the video on the Creator Insider channel, Product Manager James Dillard said that why they were considering removing the feature – which allows viewers to submit captions or translations to a YouTube channel – was that “not that many creators are ultimately using it.”

“Some of the things that we heard [from users] were, ‘well, I really love that it exists” – everyone is positive on the theory – and then they said ‘but…’

“They say things like, ‘but I’ve had problems with spam’, or, ‘it’s not reliable enough for me’,” James added.

The upload, titled Special SNEAK PEEK: The Future of Community Captions? also saw YouTube invite viewers to leave comments about their thoughts on the proposals.

At the time of writing, over 1,000 comments have been left on the video, with many calling on the platform to reverse its decision.

When asked about the process following the request for feedback, the spokesperson said that all comments on the video were examined alongside the one-on-one interviews with heavy users of the feature to understand people’s concerns.

The feedback was then assessed against other potential work which could be carried out on captions, with outcomes from the feedback including a captioning role in permissions and the free membership to the third-party captioning service Amara until the new feature had been created.

Meanwhile, larger channels called for a programme for captions, offering creators partnerships with paid, external captioning services.

The YouTube spokesperson continued to say that creators can add an unlimited amount of users to a channel through permissions, while community captions were only used by most channels for a small number of languages.

Alongside low usage, YouTube have also said that there were reports of the tool being used for spam and abuse, with content creator JT flagging in August 2019 that community contributions had been used to target individuals.

YouTube then went on to introduce an approval setting for the feature, but revealed to this website last month that while it reduced instances of spam, it also led to less usage.

In a further comment to Liam O’Dell on Thursday, a spokesperson said that both automatic and manual tools were in place to address spam, but abusers were still able to find ways around these.

The platform had to consider if tackling the abuse of community contributions was better than adding captions into the upload process in Creator Studio.

YouTube also said that axing the feature allows them to work on permissions, an improved editor drawing upon automatic captions, and the integration of subtitles into the upload flow.

When asked about YouTube’s next steps around captions on the platform, the spokesperson concluded by saying that they will not explore captions which are applied to a video which a creator is unable to manage.

They added that it seems that members of the YouTube community want to caption a channel’s content without oversight from the creator, who would be criticised by viewers if offensive words appear in the captions.

More information about the platform’s decision to deprecate community contributions can be found on the YouTube Help Center website.


Update: Responding to these revelations, Deaf YouTuber and campaigner Rikki Poynter said: “I am baffled that they asked three people including me for feedback, then they looked at the comments as well and they still got rid of it.

“It just shows that they don’t really care about deaf viewers and disabled creators.”

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