Why You Need To Stop Using YouTube’s Auto-generated Closed Captions

There are more than 122 million people actively using YouTube every day? With this high number of viewers, YouTube did not want to leave behind the hard of hearing and deaf users – hence, they incorporated auto-generated closed captions.

But how accurate are these captions? Rikki Poynter once went viral for her ‘NoMoreCRAPtions.’ Why? Automatic closed captions are inaccurate. For example, when Emma Chamberlain said, “I’m gonna be in Paris,” the closed captions read, “I’ll be embarrassed.”

Inaccuracy, lawsuits, and bad SEO are why you must stop using autogenerated closed captions. Besides, YouTube stopped indexing automatic captions because of the abuse or spam, plus most people stopped using them.

But there is more. So, keep reading to know why you must stop using YouTube’s generated captions.

In case you’re new to the captioning world, here are a few terms you need to familiarize yourself with:

  1. Video Captions: These are the text forms of the audio within a video. They convey the speaker’s words, typically in the same language, and other sound effects within a video. Video captions favor viewers with hearing problems and can be open or closed.
  2. Closed Captions: Closed captions are video captions that give you the privilege of turning them on or off and are vital for video SEO.
  3. Open Captions: Open captions are video captions that don’t offer viewers a way of turning them off; they are always on and don’t play a role in video SEO.
  4. Subtitles: Subtitles are word forms of a video’s audio for people whose language is different from the one used in the video.

Why You Need To Stop Using Auto-generated Closed Captions

While YouTube had good plans for its users, autogenerated captions relayed inaccurate information. However, as Rikki says, there are more alarming reasons why auto-generated captions are CRAPtions and not Captions.

Let us discuss them below.

1.  Inaccuracy

While captions increase the number of views, they are not always accurate. Closed captions have contextual, spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors.

The errors can be minor or significant based on the content creator’s accent. It is worst when there is more than one speaker.

Take, for example, this video by Link and Rhet.

Link asks Rhett to guess what he is holding in his hand. Rhett says, “an iPhone.” The closed captions, however, read, “Marathon.”

It is hilarious, I know! But it is also annoying for those who can hardly hear or are hard of hearing, right?

Captions’ inaccuracy gets even worst if there is background noise. Plus, if there are more than one-syllable words, the number of errors shoots. Consequently, only about 60 to 70 percent of the closed captions may be accurate.

2.  Low Number of Views

If the deaf and hard-to-hear cannot get 100 percent accurate information, they cease to watch. It is more frustrating for these disabled people when an education channel cannot give accurate captions.

It only means their education goals get halted, or they must seek help elsewhere.

Besides, due to the inaccuracy of auto-generated closed captions, YouTubers filter their search to only get results from videos with closed captions, not those with auto-generated closed captions.

If you use YouTube’s auto-generated closed captions, the YouTube views are lower.

Do not be surprised to know that 69% of YouTube video viewers watch while the sound is off when in public.

This mainly happens in public areas like churches, sports arenas, public vehicles, and other areas. On the other hand, 25% do the same while in private.

That is a 94% likelihood that you would be losing just by not adding professional closed captions.

Not to mention, 80% of viewers (you can count me in!) watch an entire video if there are closed captions.

Therefore, professional closed captions are an excellent way to increase your subscribers and YouTube views.

3. Risk of Legal Action

It is not funny when the information conveyed through closed captions is inaccurate, yet it comes from prestigious learning institutions with many followers.

Hence, there is a risk of being sued.

For example, the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) filed a case on February 5, 2015, against the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University. Why?

While the institution provides podcasts, online lectures, and courses, it violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, abbreviated as ADA, and section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act by providing inaccurate and misleading captions.

Auto-generated closed captions can be highly misleading and lead to lawsuits.


Why Are There So Many Mistakes In YouTube’s Auto-Generated Closed Captions?

Several factors contribute to the many mistakes in the YouTube’s generated captions:

  1. Machines Are Not Perfect! Bearing that these auto-generated closed captions result from machine learning algorithms, errors are inevitable. While technology has advanced, machines, like humans, can never be accurate, 100 percent. Hence, the reason why there are errors.
  2. Language And Accent Uniqueness: Captions do not support all the 7100 plus languages spoken worldwide. Consequently, turning on automatic closed captions in a video while using one of the non-supported languages means that the captions will be completely incorrect. On the other hand, there are many mistakes even in supported languages due to strong accents. This is why, for example, a closed caption reads as “I’m gonna be in Paris,” while the auto-generated closed caption state a different thing (I’ll be embarrassed).
  3. Noisy Background: Until technology advances, machine learning algorithms tend to give inaccurate captions when the background is noisy. This explains why sports and weddings have messed up auto-generated closed captions.
  4. Mumbling: When the content creator mumbles, computer learning algorithms cannot get the exact words, giving inaccurate information.

What Problems Can Happen When Closed Captions Are Inaccurate?

Millions of people worldwide utilize captions daily, not just the deaf and hard-to-hear people. For example, in sports arenas and other public areas, closed captions are typical due to people with hearing challenges.

Sadly, closed captions are not always accurate. Hence, besides exposing you to lawsuits, several other problems are associated with inaccurate captions.

Below, I will discuss each of them.

Inaccurate Auto-Generated Closed Captions Hurt YouTube Video SEO

Did you know that search engines consider the written version of your videos (captions and subtitles) to index and rank your video(s)? If Google does not get the correct information, it cannot help choose the right audience for your videos.

Let me explain a little more: As far as Google is involved, you’re spamming your audience using inaccurate closed captions.

Consequently, Google won’t rank your videos. Besides, Google doesn’t watch your YouTube videos—it entirely depends on the written form of your video.

If there are no closed captions, it depends on the YouTube video description and titles to know what your video is about. This shallow information isn’t enough for Google to rank your YouTube video appropriately.

This not only affects the audience but the number of views and subscribers. It is serious; you need to stop using auto-generated closed captions today!

Optimize your YouTube videos by adding professional closed captions so that you push your rankings a little higher and go viral soonest. You could boost your views up to 4% with good professional closed captions.

Your Message Does Not Get Delivered

The real message is not conveyed with inaccuracy. Consequently, people get the wrong message, and if they were to take action regarding what they read, they would take the wrong actions.

It is frustrating and dangerous to think of inaccurate captions on a medical channel.

So what?

Have Accurate Captions

While legal actions have been taken against higher Educational Institutions due to inaccurate captions, the lack of captions has also led others into trouble, for example, the University of Harvard.

When they filed a lawsuit against the University of Harvard, the advocates for the deaf likened a lack of captions to buildings lacking wheelchair ramps, which the disabled could use – thus, making such premises inaccessible to them.

This means that as much as incorrect captions are dangerous, a lack of captions could as well lead you into trouble. This explains why YouTube recommends using professional closed captions by YouTube content creators.

The Pros and Cons of Closed Captions

While you may think that having closed captions wastes time, they have numerous advantages.

Pros of Professionally Added Closed Captions

  • High rankings by up to 15%
  • Better SEO and Google indexing of the videos in various languages
  • Increased viewers as more than 430 million deaf people will watch your videos
  • Increased engagement with viewers (up to 85%) watching the video with the sound off—More views transit to more clicks, comments, conversations, and sales. April’s new creator round-up confirms that there are more video views when a video has captions and subtitles.
  • Humans are likely to decipher words in unclear videos better than automated systems.
  • People can detect mispronunciations in speech and note the correct ones in the captions.
  • Individuals can more easily determine words in videos with background noise than automated systems.
  • Humans can include uncommon words or slang that automation may fail to incorporate.
  • People can determine mishaps in the video and omit them, which an automated system may incorporate in the captions.

Cons of Professionally Added Closed Captions

Though the pros of professionally added captions are many, there is a dark side, too.

  • The cost of hiring a professional caption creator may be high
  • They take longer to generate than automated closed captions.
  • They are tedious to put together.

Pros of Automatic Closed Captions

  • They take a short while to generate.
  • You can generate them by simple option selection, saving you energy.
  • You won’t need to pay someone to create them for you.

Cons of Automatic Closed Captions

  • Automatic closed captions are, in most cases, inaccurate, thereby providing wrong information to viewers.
  • They may confuse or irritate the viewer.
  • Inaccuracies work against website SEO and your social presence.
  • Inferior quality reduces viewer engagement which may negatively impact ROI.
  • They break FCC rules regarding caption authenticity and quality.
  • Automatic captions are sometimes incompatible with the video language.
  • At times, lengthy videos may not allow you to auto-generate captions.

Did YouTube Remove Automatic Captions?

Though automatic closed captions are still available, YouTube doesn’t index them due to many errors. Automatic captions feature low-quality submissions that hugely affect the hard of hearing and the deaf people. In addition, video creators cited that the captions were spammy and abusive.

Google strives to direct users to content that adds value. Since your video’s captions have many mistakes if automated, the algorithm considers it to be automatically produced gibberish.

As a result, it may remove your site from search results, negatively impacting your SEO strategies. Even if not removed, the errors may cause you to rank for the wrong words and have high bounce rates, thereby hurting your ranking chances.


1.      What Is the Difference Between Subtitles and Closed Captions?

Captions primarily target the deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers. With closed captions, you can turn them on or off. On the other hand, subtitles target viewers who hardly understand the content creator’s language.

2.      Why Should I Manually Add Closed Captions Yet YouTube Provides Automatic Closed Captions?

Manually adding closed captions ensures quality and accuracy hence why YouTube recommends creators to add professional captions first. Users that need captions to follow your video often seek help elsewhere if they find the captions insensible.

Automatically generated captions tend to have incorrect bits due to pronunciation, background noise, and the number of speakers, among other issues.

3.      How Do I Report Bad Closed Captioning?

You can reach out to the FCC to report bad closed captioning. There are several ways by which you do this:

  •  Calling their offices by phone: ASL: 1-844-432-2275 or using 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322)
  • Sending them an email: dro@fcc.gov.

The Parting Shot

Inaccurate information, exposure to lawsuits, low number of views, and subscribers are among the top reasons you need to stop using auto-generated closed captions. Inaccuracy in closed captions is high if the content creator’s accent is heavy, there is any background noise and music, or many speakers.

Knowing the correct message and acting accordingly to the numerous errors is difficult. Besides, the deaf and hard-to-hear cannot benefit from such a video, thus violating their rights.

It is time to hear from you. Have you used generated closed captions? Please share your experience with me in the comments section.

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