YouTube is under fire after the company made the decision to suspend the community contributions feature, effective Sept. 28.
Community contributions allow users to submit their own edits to video title/description translations, subtitles and closed captions. After being reviewed by either the creator of the video or the community, the captions are then published to the video.
According to a post made by a TeamYoutube Google Employee on the Google support site, the community contributions feature was not being used for its intended purpose.
“While we hoped community contributions would be a wide-scale, community-drive source of quality translations for creators, it’s rarely used and people continue to report spam and abuse,” Camilla from TeamYoutube said. “Both creators and viewers have reported problems with the community captions feature, including spam, abuse, and low quality submissions.”
Team YouTube stated that in July 2020, less than .001% of channels utilized the community captions. Although this statistic represents a relatively small demographic, the response has been enormous.
This announcement caused an eruption across the internet not only among the deaf and hard-of-hearing community, but also among hearing users who prefer to view content with captions.
A petition on Change.org calling for YouTube to “reverse the decision to remove the community captions feature” has already garnered over 500,000 signatures. Emma Wolfe, the creator of the petition, feels that YouTube’s decision excludes a large group of people from the video viewing experience.
“There is a great many people who rely on captions to enjoy content posted on YouTube, for a variety of reasons,” Wolfe said. “Some viewers are hard of hearing, some have audio processing disorders, and some watch content created in a language other than their own.”
Wolfe explained that this feature allowed different communities to “come together and enjoy content that they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to.”
This removal of an accessibility feature that has proven itself useful to those that utilize it has many users questioning if YouTube truly cares about its hearing audience.
Rikki Poynter, a deaf vlogger on YouTube, made multiple videos discussing the matter and expressed her disapproval.
“Captions are an accessibility tool,” Poynter said in one of her videos. “You had these so that you could be accessible — but now apparently that seems like it doesn’t matter?”
In a tweet posted by @TeamYouTube, the company has responded to the concern by assuring users that they will keep working to better improve accessibility.
YouTube has also promised to cover the cost of a six-month subscription of Amara.org — a caption and subtitle editor — for content creators who have used the community contribution feature for at least three videos in the month of July.