Playing the algorithm: How it can backfire

On YouTube, there is one universal rule for all creators: eventually, you’ll have to make an apology to address a controversy you may find yourself embroiled in. These scandals can range from mostly harmless missteps to being involved in actual criminal offenses. A very recent example of this is David Dobrik, who released two separate apology videos addressing a sexual assault incident he both facilitated and filmed, along with a variety of other allegations.

Like many creators, Dobrik knew that addressing the controversy could lead to more fans finding out about it. Therefore, he released his first apology, title “Let’s Talk” on his least followed channel, disabling likes and dislikes. More than likely, he was hoping that this would be enough of a response for fans asking for him to address the allegations, but not be seen by most people.

David Dobrik looking stupid

A screenshot from one of Dobrik’s apology videos. Notice how he left in him crying and how he is sitting on the floor, common tropes in the youtube apology genre.

Unfortunately for him, the video ended up on the YouTube trending page, and his clear attempt to manipulate the algorithm led to more people speaking out about the issue. He eventually had to make another apology, which still met some controversy. Dobrik has now lost all sponsorships and had to step away from his app, Dispo.

As Timothy Laquintano and Annette Vee discussed, automated systems greatly affect our writing and communication systems, and I believe this is a great example of this. Dobrik has thrived off the algorithm. He even sold merchandise with “clickbait” on it, showing how he works to manipulate YouTube’s automatic system. His name or face attached to a project automatically makes the algorithm more favorable to a piece of media, and he has famously not responded to scandals in the past to avoid negative associations with his name.

a red hoodie with the word "clickbait" on it

This has clearly led to his downfall, however. By playing the algorithm to boost his name recognition, Dobrik has made it even easier for others to call him out. He cannot hide his apology, even from automated systems. In my opinion, he is finally getting what he deserves.

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