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(LifeSiteNews) — YouTube has announced that “dislike” counts will no longer be publicly visible beneath videos, in a move the Google-owned platform says is meant to curb harassment of smaller accounts. Conservatives suspect it’s actually meant to spare the embarrassment of some of the most powerful voices in the country.

“[W]e’re making the dislike counts private across YouTube, but the dislike button is not going away,” YouTube announced November 10, ostensibly based on experiments that found a reduction in “people work[ing] to drive up the number of dislikes on a creator’s videos” if the fruits of their efforts cannot be seen. 

Uploaders will still have access to the dislikes on their own videos for content-assessment purposes, and viewers can still leave dislikes to “tune their recommendations and privately share feedback with creators.”

“We heard during the experiment that some of you have used the public dislike count to help decide whether or not to watch a video,” the YouTube Team said. “We know that you might not agree with this decision, but we believe that this is the right thing to do for the platform. We want to create an inclusive and respectful environment where creators have the opportunity to succeed and feel safe to express themselves.”

The announcement closed with a tease that the company is planning additional steps to “protect” creators from “harassment.”

But critics argue the new policy is meant to protect very different groups, including YouTube itself.

“YouTube’s annual Rewind compilation was a popular tradition that served as an homage to YouTube’s most influential creators, memes and music, but instead, in 2018, it featured (as noted by NewsBusters) ‘liberal YouTubers literally sitting around a campfire toasting the bravery of drag queens, immigrants and identity politics,’” Alexander Hall recalls at NewsBusters. “The video rapidly became the one of the most disliked videos in the platform’s history and currently has a mere 3 million likes to 19 million dislikes. Similarly Gillette’s commercial against ‘toxic masculinity” has about 835,000 likes compared to 1.6 million dislikes.’”

“While it’s true that many dislikes on a video may be a result of a targeted campaign, dislikes also help to show that certain videos are clickbait, spam, or misleading,” Breitbart reporter Lucas Nolan adds.

Another likely beneficiary of the new policy is Joe Biden. In January, the Epoch Times reported that YouTube appeared to delete an approximate total of 16,000 dislikes from three of the newly-inaugurated president’s videos. The company suggested at the time it merely deleted votes from spam accounts, an explanation the left-wing “fact-checking” outlet PolitiFact took at face value.

YouTube has a history of manipulating its metrics and discriminating against certain content on the basis of political viewpoint, including on the topics of COVID-19, climate change, and election integrity. In February, YouTube deleted LifeSiteNews’ entire channel.