In a move that just feels like a kick in the cochlear, YouTube is putting an end to a feature which allows the crowdsourcing of captions and subtitles two days after the International Week of the Deaf.

Ars Technica reports, the Community Contributions feature YouTube is set to remove, gives creators the ability to enable others to submit captions and translations of their videos. This has been an excellent option – while YouTube does supply some automatic captions, they’re not always very good especially if the person in the video has an accent. (Though I will say watching Mark Serrels’ videos with the automatic captions up is a special pleasure.)

When submitting new subtitles these machined options would be there first, giving people a headstart and the ability to just edit incorrect and misheard words.

YouTube has said low usage and prolific spam are the reasons for the removal of the feature, but many in the community are vehemently opposed. At time of writing, over half a million people have signed this change.org petition to keep the feature which states “Removing community captions locks so many viewers out of the experience.”

The idea of 'low usage' feels like a dismissal of the importance of such a feature to the few who really find it critical to their access to YouTube content. And if spam is such a problem couldn't YouTube point some of its very good spam fighting resources toward a better solution than just shutting it down?

But there could be something even more insidious here than just being downright rude to deaf people. Youtube are offering a 6 month free subscription to the third party service Amara for folks who’ve used the contribution feature for 3 videos in the last 30 days. So the company has taken away a free community driven service, and is offloading people onto a paid one.

Don’t you love the smell of disenfranchising the marginalised and boosting capitalism in the morning? As an added bonus, If you were wondering, the theme of 2020’s International Week of the Deaf was “Reaffirming Deaf People’s Human Rights”.

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