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Does YouTube discriminate against Koreans?

YouTubers claim platform gives less prominence to Korean comments

Screenshot of YouTubers Josh Carrott and Ollie Kendal’s video alleging YouTube discriminates against Korean comments. (YouTube)
Screenshot of YouTubers Josh Carrott and Ollie Kendal’s video alleging YouTube discriminates against Korean comments. (YouTube)

YouTubers Josh Carrott and Ollie Kendal on Wednesday posted a clip saying the social media platform discriminates against Koreans by featuring English comments more prominently.

Their channel, Korean Englishman, has over 3.7 million subscribers.

“We realized that there’d be a Korean comment at the top with like 700 likes. Above it, there’d be like 10 English comments with maybe 100 likes each,” Carrott said in the video.

Kendal added that when he sorted comments based on the latest posts rather than popularity, he found that 70 to 80 percent of the comments were written in Korean.

“Korean comments are being discriminated against, algorithmically. If you imagine the comments section is a room full of 10 people talking right now, six or seven of those are Korean and three or four of them are speaking in English. But what YouTube is doing is silencing the six people so that the three or four can be heard. It’s not right.” Kendal said.

Last August, the duo had posted a video saying they had reached out to YouTube about this issue. They were told it was a bug.

Another YouTuber, David Levene, who operates channel The World of Dave, had brought up the matter last September. He said in that video, “Even if Korean comments get more likes and I give it heart, English comments are above them.”

Carrott and Kendal had decided to highlight the issue again because they had not seen any changes to the platform. They had also been shocked by a reply from a YouTube engineer.

“They were like, yes, there is an issue, and it is deliberate,”  Kendal said in the latest video.

“YouTube wanted to experiment with prioritizing English comments across a few Korean channels, to see if they could bring in some international audiences to those Korean channels,” Carrott added.

A YouTube algorithm expert weighed in. “I think it is highly likely that YouTube is doing this on purpose. Adjusting the algorithm to maximize the time people spend on each video, which can be linked to its profit,” Korea Press Foundation researcher Oh Sae-wook said.

“I don’t think this is a bad thing. If YouTubers do not like this, they can simply leave the channel.”

YouTube Korea declined to comment on the issue.

By Song Seung-hyun (ssh@heraldcorp.com)
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