Why are YouTube comments the worst on the internet?

A perfect storm of factors ensures that YouTube is home to the most toxic comment section on the web.

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It is often said that Mozart’s Requiem Mass in D minor is one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever composed, but you wouldn’t know that from the YouTube comments. “Thanks mozart for adding more sexiness to my sexy sex life with this music... me and my girlfriend enjoy having sex with this music... HAIL TO MOZART!!!,” wrote Mr or Mrs impuredeath2 on an upload of the song last month.

As far as YouTube comments go, this is a good one. There is no racism, homophobia, or antisemitism, there are no conspiracy theories, it is a full sentence, and it doesn’t contain the words “thumbs up if u agree”. For years, YouTube has notoriously been the home of the worst comment section on the internet, and if you Google “Why are YouTube comments…”, the search engine will helpfully complete your sentence with the options “so bad”, “so racist”, and “so toxic”. We are all aware that YouTube comments are terrible, but much like the fact that jet fuel can’t melt steel beams, although we know it’s true, we don’t really know why.

There are, in fact, many reasons. The first (“First!!!!”) is that all internet comment sections are terrible, but Facebook, Reddit, and many news sites filter their comments so that the first comments you see are the ones that have received the most positive votes. In these systems, toxic comments are often hidden away after they are voted down too many times. On YouTube, the “Top” comments are the ones with the most replies, and although you can “Thumbs down” a comment, pressing this button doesn’t affect its overall number of “Thumbs up” nor move it any further down the page (try it yourself). The comments you see first are therefore often the most controversial.

But it’s not just the “Top” comments on YouTube that are awful, and this is mostly to do with how immediate and popular the comment section is. Unless you get a lot of replies or thumbs up, your comment will disappear underneath a multitude of others soon after it’s written. YouTube has no “View all comments” option that people can CTRL+F through to find your name and words, so if anyone wanted to find out what you’d written, they’d have to arduously click “Show more” hundreds of times.

This means that despite the fact YouTube’s comment section isn’t anonymous – the site forces people to sign up via their Google account – people don’t really have to be scared of what they say. Unlike on Facebook, Reddit, or Twitter, a user’s profile doesn’t hold a collection of their comments or a list of things they’ve commented on. It is for this reason that you never see headlines about people being fired for their comments under Mozart’s Requiem, but often do for their Facebook statuses or Tweets. This set-up only compounds the fact that, contrary to popular belief, non-anonymous individuals are actually more aggressive than anonymous individuals online.

Just like there are few consequences for awful comments, there is also little reward for good ones. On other social media platforms, people crave Likes and shares, but on YouTube these are – once again – not visibly collected on your profile. People are also less inclined to go to YouTube for an intelligent debate (thumbs up if you’re reading this in 2016!!!), which makes the problem cyclical.

Top this all off with the fact there are no comment moderators and pretty much everyone goes on YouTube (including lots of kids), and you have a perfect storm of factors. Although some popular YouTubers have chosen to ban certain words from their comments so they’re automatically filtered out, most people who upload to the site do so casually, without considering this option.

Now, that's settled, we’d best get down to business. ~★☆★ If you share this article on the next seven YouTube videos you watch, your true love will kiss you on Friday at midnight. ★☆★~

Amelia Tait is features editor at Shortlist.com, she was previously the New Statesman's tech and digital culture writer, and tweets at @ameliargh.