01: A Deadly Fail
I started searching for “fail videos” where people fall or get a little hurt. I was then presented with a channel that showed dash cam videos from cars. At first it was minor accidents, but later it transitioned into cars blowing up and falling off bridges — videos where people clearly didn't survive the accident. I felt a little bit sick at that point, and haven't really sought out that type of content after that.
02: “I Don’t Know How To Undo the Damage That Has Been Done”
My 10-year-old sweet daughter innocently searched for “tap dance videos” and now is in this spiral of horrible extreme “dance” and contortionist videos that give her horrible unsafe body-harming and body-image-damaging advice. I’ve tried to go in and manually delete all recommended videos, put in parental controls, everything (including blocking the app) — but she’s finding ways to log on using browsers and school computers. These terrible videos just keep being recommended to her. She is now restricting her eating and drinking. I heard her downstairs saying “work to eat! work to drink!” I don’t know how I can undo the damage that’s been done to her impressionable mind.
03: Stallions Doing Mares
I like watching horse sports videos, or horse care information. YouTube keeps pushing stallions doing mares at me — not my interest at all. No one has ever watched any porno on my personal machine, so having it pushed at me feels upsetting and degrading.
04: YouTube’s Drag Race
I used to occasionally watch a drag queen who did a lot of positive affirmation/confidence building videos and vlogs. Otherwise, I watched very little that wasn't mainstream music. But my recommendations and the sidebar were full of anti-LGBT and similar hateful content. It got to the point where I stopped watching their content and still regretted it, as the recommendations followed me for ages after.
05: How I Lost My Father
My stepfather is an 80-year-old retired scientist from Ecuador. He was always curious about all sources of wisdom, theories and knowledge, is very literate and educated, enjoys discussing current events and scientific discoveries. But for a few years, he has become quite lonely and spends a large amount of time on the internet — and on YouTube in particular. His curious mind quickly brought him toward "alternative theories" on multiple topics: conspiracies, Illuminati and other alien-based stories, Bible-inspired as well as radically anti-religious obscure worldviews, "pyramidologists", etc.
Despite the fact that we tried to erase his YouTube history and "clean" his browser, his recommendations are completely filled by these kinds of esoteric videos, with those recognizable synthetic (TTS) voice-over commentaries, endlessly proposing a similar video after another. He sometimes falls asleep while watching. His days are filled by such content, which has quite strongly affected his worldview toward a much grimmer and more pessimistic turn. It seems impossible for us, his family, to fight against the recommendation algorithms that steers his digital consumer life. It is quite sad and frustrating to see a loved one bury oneself more and more into this kind of obscure, negative and extremely confidence-depriving influence.
06: How I Lost My Father, Part II
My father, before his passing, thought aliens were already living among us in disguise, that he could eliminate his heating bill with a new "free energy" device, and that UFOs were all over the place. He showed me YouTube videos that "proved it." I spent hours trying to explain to him that YouTube is full of "free energy" scams, that the best UFO is maybe a shitty little DARPA toy, and that aliens among us in plain clothes was simply delusion caused by YouTube videos. He could not come to grips with why people could be dishonest, or why the FCC wasn't doing their job, and trusted what he saw on his TV way too much. He was consuming YouTube on his TV and maybe thought the same FCC kind of government regulation he was used to was still present there. How much better could our time together have been if not for YouTube-induced delusions?
07: Ex Files
My ex-wife, who has mental health problems, started watching conspiracy videos three years ago and believed every single one. YouTube just kept feeding her paranoia, fear and anxiety one video after another. I kept begging her to stop, but she didn't — she couldn't. At one point she believed a helicopter near the house was the government coming to take her and my daughter away (they were really checking the power lines) and called in a blind panic. Now she's convinced the world is going to end any day now and is an extreme religious fundamentalist. She refuses to even consider professional help because she no longer trusts anyone — especially doctors, the police and any government-run organisation. And YouTube just keeps feeding her more and more of the fear videos. My marriage is now over. Her extraordinary fear has totally consumed her and our life together.
08: One Small Step for Conspiracies
I'm a teacher and I watched serious documentaries about Apollo 11. But YouTube's recommendations are now full of videos about conspiracy theories: about 9/11, Hitler's escape, alien seekers and anti-American propaganda.
09: It Gets Better
Any search for positive LGBT content results in a barrage of homophobic, right-wing recommendations. I can only imagine how harmful this would be to people still figuring out their identity.
10: Actually, It Doesn’t Get Better on YouTube
In coming out to myself and close friends as transgender, my biggest regret was turning to YouTube to hear the stories of other trans and queer people. Simply typing in the word "transgender" brought up countless videos that were essentially describing my struggle as a mental illness and as something that shouldn't exist. YouTube reminded me why I hid in the closet for so many years.
Every now and then YouTube will continue to recommend me a video that tells me that my gender identity is wrong — and it reminds me of how much hate is squarely directed at me and people like me. I'm somewhat older, I've been dealing with these issues internally for a long time and I have therapy to work out these issues, but I can't imagine what it's like for those without access to help. Especially for younger trans and queer people who always risk having hate thrown at them on YouTube — a hate that Google time and time again has stood behind and has refused to take off of their platform. YouTube will always be a place that reminds LGBT individuals that they are hated and provides the means for bigots to make a living spouting hate speech. YouTube is a part of my pain in coming out and is a reminder of how terrible this world can be to those who are different. I have to be proud in spite of places like YouTube.
11: Sarah McLachlan Does Not Approve
One time YouTube recommended me a video about a street dog (he was in an awful, awful shape) in India being rescued. The next thing I know, my homepage is full of thumbnails of mistreated animals — really sad images. So yeah, not a good beginning of the day for me.
12: That Went Off the Rails
When my son was preschool age, he liked to watch "Thomas the Tank Engine" videos on YouTube. One time when I checked on him, he was watching a video compilation that contained graphic depictions of train wrecks.
13: That Stuff is Hate
I was watching "The Tropes vs Women in Video Games" series on feministfrequency channel with Anita Sarkeesian. All of a sudden, I started getting all of these anti-women, incel, men's rights, and GamerGate recommended videos. I ended up removing that series from my watch history and going through and flagging those bad recommendations as not interested. It was gross and disturbing. Especially troubling were the videos that tricked me into thinking I would be able to learn more about a trope, but instead it was some guy screeching about how Anita is a whore. That stuff is hate, and I really shouldn't have to tell YouTube that it's wrong to promote it.
14: It’s Definitely Cancer!
My eight-year-old granddaughter was using our tablet to watch children's videos; unknowingly as grandparents we thought she was safe. The next day we watched as our granddaughter sat at the dinner table speaking candidly to her parents about her fear of cancer. She asked if the food and water we consume are safe. My daughter was terrified.
As it turned out, in the middle of watching how children with medical challenges can do great, inspirational things, the video turned dark and began showing the aftermath of what cancer has done to children's skin and bones. The video described by my granddaughter was horrifying, packed with raw footage of rotting skins and disfiguration.
Now we are working with her to understand cancer and to not fear eating food or drinking water.
15: Vikings Weren’t Racist
Once I was looking for videos about Vikings and Nordic heathenism, and was led to videos promoting racism and white supremacy! I'm not into that at all. I find that very disturbing.
16: Thanks, Dad
Around 2013, I went down a deep rabbit hole looking up conspiracy videos on YouTube. I can't remember what got me there, but the Alex Jones website infowars.com definitely stands out as a reason. I began to search every conspiracy theory video I could find, and it got darker and darker the deeper I went. I began to talk about these things with my friends: The government was going to collapse; there would be mass panic and a police state in the United States by the year 2015; it went on and on. My view of the world changed in the coming months, and I began to see even my employment as an empty pursuit — why should I put effort into something that doesn't see the world like I did now? One day I had lunch with my dad and started talking about these things. He listened and smiled. Eventually he broke my spell by simply saying, "Look around you, everything is fine, none of those things are going to happen." I still occasionally see these videos on the suggestion engine when I visit YouTube for car and computer repair videos.
17: Buckle Up
I fly a lot. I once looked up Arrecife Airport, and now I'm frequently getting horror stories of plane crashes. It has scared the shit out of me every time I get on a plane!
18: What’s In Your Water?
I started with a regular documentary about cod liver oil. Within a couple hours, I ended up with recommended videos about the government controlling people's minds using fluoridated water. The theories were stupid, but comments seemed to be coming from people who took the video very seriously.
19: Moody As Hell
A friend did a video for my husband showing the process of how he makes knives — he's an artist and does hunting knives, kitchen knives, etc. The context is very soft and moody, with low lighting and a melancholy atmosphere. Not what I had in mind, but it does show the whole process. YouTube must have focused on the "mood" and classified it as "dark" instead of taking note of the subject matter (how to make a knife), because the "up next" videos were all very dark, showcases of grotesque murders and unsolved crimes from the Victorian Era: "The French Socialite Locked in her Attic for 25 Years," "The Gruesome Case of the Papin Sisters," "The Collyer Brothers Horders Nest" — really gross!
20: “No Wonder Everything is Such a Mess”
I once searched for a video of a statement Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez made in congress, because I had seen a short snippet on a TV show and wanted to see the whole thing in context. I was shocked by how many trashy attack videos suddenly showed up in the sidebar with disparaging and misleading headlines. If that's what always happens when people try to educate themselves about politics, no wonder everything is such a mess.
21: Even Stripper Heels!!!
One time I was looking for history videos about the Trojan War. As you know, there is an event where Achilles gets shot with an arrow in his heel, and that is where the word "Achilles tendon" comes from. Ever since, I get recommendations about high heels, videos of girls showing how to walk in heels, or fetish videos of girls walking in high heels — even stripper heels!!! All that because I love ancient history! Not cool!!!
22: A Gamer Who Doesn't Smoke Weed?!
YouTube once randomly started giving me suggestions for weed bong videos after watching gaming videos for several hours straight. I guess the algorithm got borked by a joke or something in the video. Some of the gamers I like to watch make weed jokes and whatever, but I don't smoke and don't care about it.
Anyway, not only did it push this shit into my feed I didn't care about, it somehow subscribed me to this stupid channel. I eventually figured out I was subscribed to it and immediately unsubbed, but this happened right at the same time when I was not being notified of the people I was subscribed to putting out new videos. I haven't trusted their algorithm since.
23: Irrational Thinkers
I went through a period where I was looking at these debates of "rational thinkers" like Ben Shapiro and JBP vs. liberals and feminists. Interesting, but highly-polarising and frustration-inducing content. For months after I stopped watching this stuff, videos like "Person X DESTROYS liberal" kept popping up in my recommendations.
24: No Big Deal… Until It Is
I don't really have a problem with YouTube making suggestions based on my interests. For example, I enjoy auto reviews and auto how-to repair videos. I then get suggestions for many more I haven't solicited. No big deal. My worst experience: After watching an astronomy video, I was flooded with all kinds of "Area 51" weird pseudoscience. All I had to do is click "not interested" a few times and they gradually disappeared. I can foresee potentially serious issues if young people get sidetracked into something they are not yet equipped to deal with.
25: Bare Naked Yoga
I remember looking for yoga headstand videos in search. Recommendations started showing videos with images of naked woman doing headstands. This was when restrictions were on in my settings. I never looked for another such video. Then I looked for videos on Hinduism. And they started recommending very offensive videos with images like naked Draupadi having sex.
26: Music Nazis
I once clicked on some old German folk songs, and was then fed folk song videos of neo-Nazis. I did not regret having clicked on the politically correct folk songs... but rather that YouTube apparently thinks that those who listen to such songs are highly likely to be considered close to National Socialism.
27: Violence Everywhere
I started by watching a boxing match, then street boxing matches, and then I saw videos of street fights, then accidents and urban violence… I ended up with a horrible vision of the world and feeling bad, without really wanting to.
28: It’s Been 0 Days Since YouTube Had An Accident
One day I started looking for tutorials to decorate a house, and the next day YouTube recommended me videos of accidents at work, i.e. people who died working or had serious accidents while working in construction sites.