Mozilla Foundation expands its program to report toxic Youtube recommendations

The nonprofit Mozilla Foundation, which promotes projects to reclaim the internet for the public good, has announced new browser extensions for Firefox and Chrome to augment its ongoing Youtube Regrets campaign. From the original description of the Youtube Regrets campaign:

YouTube Regrets is a crowdsourced public awareness campaign run by the nonprofit Mozilla. Mozilla collected YouTube users’ stories about the platform’s recommendation engine leading them down bizarre and sometimes dangerous pathways. This work was catalyzed by our own research on trustworthy AI; by stories in the New York Times and other publications; and by YouTube engineers who have spoken out.

On September 17, Mozilla announced an expansion of the program with the launch of “Regrets Reporter”, a quick-report browser extension for Firefox and Chrome.

From the email announcement sent by Mozilla Foundation to its supporters:

Almost a year ago to the day, we sent you an email asking you if you had any YouTube Regrets: times when you went down a rabbit hole watching recommended YouTube videos that you later regretted. We received thousands of stories in response to our call. We heard from those of you who lost your parents and spouses, in part, to consuming conspiracy theories, those who were targeted with homophobic and hateful videos, and even those whose children were recommended videos that scarred them.

We pushed YouTube to fix this problem by being more open and transparent about what they recommend and how. They have not yet met this standard.

That's why we need your help. We built a browser extension that gives you a way to report YouTube Regrets right when you experience them. By donating your YouTube data, you can help us uncover what kind of recommended videos people later regret watching and notice if there are patterns popping up. This information can help Mozilla — along with fellow researchers, journalists, policymakers, and even engineers within YouTube — work towards building more trustworthy recommendation engines.

And from the Regrets Reporter’s campaign and information page:

With the RegretsReporter extension, you can immediately take action to send us recommended videos that you regret watching—like pseudoscience or anti-LGBTQ+ content.

The report form will ask you to tell us more about your YouTube Regret and collect information about the recommendations that led you to the video. By sharing your experiences, you can help us answer questions like: what kinds of recommended videos do users regret watching? Are there usage patterns that lead to more regrettable content being recommended? What does a YouTube rabbit hole look like, and at what point does it become something you wish you never clicked on?

The Regrets Reporter campaign page provides the URLs to install the Firefox and Chrome versions of the reporter, which are:


(We can see here that the Chrome web store apparently has a preference for long gibberish URLs.)

Suspiciously, Mozilla’s Regrets Reporter doesn’t show up in a search on Google’s own Chrome web store even when I type its exact name, “Regrets Reporter”. Feel free to spin any conspiracy theories that you like from that particular data point, but please don’t make a conspiracy video about it and post it to Youtube, which already has enough conspiracy videos as it is.

- Bruce


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