Last night, I got an email from YouTube saying they’re planning to drop their community contributions feature. The feature is what allows the YouTube community to create accurate, word-for-word captions on videos, which can be subject to the video creator’s approval. The captions are designed to asssist viewers with hearing difficulties and/or audio-processing issues.
The community can also provide subtitles in other languages.
As of right now, there are 3 different ways for closed captioning to be provided for YouTube videos.
- They can be provided for by the video’s creator
- The viewer can turn on the Automatic Captions feature
- As already mentioned, they can provided for by the community
Method number 3 is currently on the chopping block. YouTube’s reason for this is that it too often leads to spam, trolling, and offensive messages posing as closed captions and subtitles. They also claim the feature isn’t necessary because it’s only used by 0.001% of all channels.
From my experience, I have never witnessed spam messages in YouTube’s captions. I have seen silly messages in PewDiePie’s videos that were meant to compound on the video’s already silly content. I’ve also noticed that in his more serious videos, the captions provided are also serious and devoid of anything facetious. If a troll comes along and wishes to create havoc by desecrating the captions, they’re usually corrected very quickly (same with a Wikipedia article).
As for the 0.001% statistic, it’s a non sequitur. YouTube didn’t point out that there are MILLIONS of different channels on the platform. For the sake of argument, let’s say there are 5 million YouTube channels in total. 0.001% of that is 5,000. 5,000 channels with clear, accurate captions? Hey, I’ll take it.
What YouTube also isn’t looking at, or ignoring, is that since the vast majority of channels are small with a very limited reach, they simply do not have community members interested in contributing to captions. It’s definitely a matter of playing the numbers game when it comes to community contributions: the more subscribers/viewers you have, the better your chances are of getting contributions through the community.
These captions are a valuable resource for the Deaf community. There is no reason for YouTube to discount the impact and accessibility it provides, only because of the misleading “0.001%” statistic.
It’s not only the Deaf community that benefits, but also those that are multi-lingual. If you’re interested in learning a different language, wouldn’t YouTube be a valuable resource for that? Better yet, would it not be accommodating for those that don’t speak the video’s language?
YouTube ostesibly believes that the other two captioning methods are sufficient in the absence of the community-contribution feature. Those two methods are, I’ll reiterate, 1) The creator themselves upload the captions and 2) YouTube’s speech-to-text software creates the captions automatically.
Two problems with that, though. 1) Most creators don’t care enough to submit carefully-edited captions since it’s not high on their list of priorities (this is why the vast majority of channels don’t have professional captions) and 2) YouTube’s speech-to-text software, while promising, is far from perfect. Every so often you see the Automatic Captions become so distorted since the software could not accurately articulate what was being said. This sometimes happens to comedic effect when pointed out in the comment sections.
The only surefire way we have of providing clean, accurate captions is by inviting the community to provide them. We need to continue encouraging people that are passionate about helping the disadvantaged. YouTube was founded on inclusiveness, being welcoming, and supportive to people all over the world and to connect them, as well. Let’s keep it like that.
Petition on Change.org – Please sign and spread the word. Thank you. https://www.change.org/p/google-inc-don-t-remove-community-captions-from-youtube?redirect=false&fbclid=IwAR20Xqc6T-XbAH9rZq-N1oyLThPaWfMpQ8ztoF7F0l56DjVvi21-zsvXik8