From radicalization to embarrassing suggestions, the dangers of YouTube’s video-recommendation algorithm are no secret. This means that for millions, the algorithm will pick up on an innocent search of “what is a burpee?” and transform it into a presumptuous and misguided feed of fitness-related content, as though that workout video was more than a one time thing.
Sources report that YouTube’s artificial “intelligence” will take the fact you watched one workout video and make the brazen assumption that you’re undergoing a lifestyle change; more accurate AI would be able to recognize that video what it so obviously was: a one-off from when you were all amped up after watching Mission Impossible.
“The other day I clicked on ‘Beginner Core Workout!’ and then let it play to completion while I while I lay face down on my yoga mat,” says Elena Van Epps. “I’d never done a crunch in my life. And I still haven’t, despite what the algorithm might think.”
However, when Van Epps logged onto YouTube the next morning to watch her favorite Roman Roy fan edit over breakfast, the algorithm had already taken a dark turn.
“Just from that single pilates video, my YouTube homepage had been flooded with increasingly extreme fitness-related content like ’10 DAY SHRED,’ ‘DOING LUNGES UNTIL I GET MY KIDS BACK,’ and ‘BURPEES ARE THE ONLY WAY I CAN ORGASM TO COMPLETION–THIS IS HOW,’ said Van Epps. “It was really frightening, but also annoying because I don’t need that clogging my home page. I never plan on exercising again.”
The true danger of the YouTube algorithm lies in its audacity. The gall of YouTube to assume that a viewer could be someone who regularly watches–let alone “follows along” with–an “abs before breakfast!” workout video is something that experts in the tech industry refer to as “fucking bonkers.”
The platform’s reach is wide, and its problems run deep — almost as deep as the squats that YouTube thinks you’re doing.