Social media giants do run hundreds of tests in the background and keep trying out new features. But an on-going test being conducted by YouTube has not gone down too well with its content creators. That's because this test is making changes to the custom thumbnails made by creators, without their consent.
YouTuber Rayo Alarcon Gareca, noticed that the thumbnails used on his videos were changed randomly. On tweeting about it, Team YouTube handle responded saying that YouTube was conducting a small experiment where 0.3 percent of the viewers would see auto-generated thumbnails.
We are running a small experiment where 0.3% of viewers will see an auto-generated thumbnail, instead of your custom thumbnail. We are not removing the ability to create your custom thumbnail, but we hope to gain insights on auto-generated thumbnails for the future.
— Team YouTube (@TeamYouTube) June 28, 2018
This response clearly seems to have ruffled some feathers and likely so, because YouTube isn't informing or taking consent of the content creators before changing the thumbnails. While YouTube says that this experiment does not take away from your ability to create custom thumbnails, changing them even for experimental purposes is just wrong.
A thumbnail is a showcase of what the video is about, and a lot of content creators take great pains to make them and ensure they attract the right audience. YouTube running an experiment to create aut0-generated thumbnails to gain insights, at the cost of the creator's channel, is just unethical. A post on the YouTube forum informing about it without giving any heads up to the channels affected has not gone down too well with a lot of YouTubers.
YouTube influencers took to their Twitter handles to express their displeasure at this.
YouTube in 2023: We are running a small experiment where 2% of viewers will see a Jake Paul video, instead of your video. We are not removing the ability to make your own videos, but we hope to gain insights on engagement the dislike button for the future. https://t.co/fJr4TBtu9N
— Marques Brownlee (@MKBHD) June 28, 2018
I'm grateful for YouTube, I really am! It gave me a platform to help me become who I am today. But my confidence in the platform is falling more and more recently due to actions like this. No communication or consulting with creators, they simply do what they want ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ https://t.co/MtJTaSJ1Dh
— Safwan Ahmedmia (@SuperSaf) June 28, 2018
Hello YouTube, it’s not a good research practice when you:
• Didn’t ask for participants’ consent
• Didn’t formally debrief participants after experiments
What ethics council gave you your research approval?
— Penny 💜 (@penny_disco) June 28, 2018
People are freaking out about this and I just wanted to say that I don't think it's a worthwhile thing to freak out about. A temporary, small test that will give YouTube useful data about how auto-generated thumbnails perform vs creator created ones.
— Hank but VidCon is Over :'( (@hankgreen) June 28, 2018
Just FYI, we’re a part of that sample and here are what the same vids look like with the thumbnails we created vs the auto generated ones. pic.twitter.com/JzCFrEOF1n
— Adam Legg (@AdamLegg) June 28, 2018
Some Twitter commentators tried to find some humour in this whole thing as well
If Youtube is going to be swapping thumbnails as an experiment, swap the ones with the red arrows and circles that point out the obvious!
— Romance O.E.M 💢 (@dealchemist720) June 29, 2018
— Sam (@Kaozbender) June 28, 2018