Is YouTube intentionally slowing down the computers of AdBlock users?

By January 18, 2024 Technology

We’ve seen this claim circulating on social media. One post on X has garnered almost 10 million views. According to the claim, the YouTube website is able to detect ad blockers and slow loading times by increasing the CPU load – that is, increasing the amount of processing the computer needs to do in order to run, thereby slowing it down.  Per the claim, this is part of efforts to combat the use of ad blocking software such as AdBlock (which has over 60 million users worldwide) – something that YouTube has been cracking down harder on since last year.The screenshot in the claim post comes from an article published on 15 January by the website PCgamer, which produces game and tech news and reviews. Looking closer after users on  forums such as reddit pointed out noticeably slower loading times, PCgamer writers tested their CPU usage and noted an increase of 15-18% CPU load when YouTube was run with AdBlock in the background.

However, while this article and its headline spread quickly across social media and other news outlets on 15 January, the article was quickly edited with an update on 16 January. The updated article includes a statement from YouTube’s communication manager, who denies that AdBlock-related loading delays are part of YouTube’s ad blocker crackdown efforts.We also found a thread on X by Raymond Hill, a developer for another ad blocker, uBlock Origin, who responded to similar claims even before the PCgamer article gained traction. In it, Hill instead claimed that recent versions of AdBlock and AdBlock Plus were at fault.  This was soon proven accurate by an update from AdBlock developers, who have since released a further update to resolve the issues. While the CPU load increases did happen, they did not only impact Youtube and were instead caused by bugs in the AdBlock code.Therefore, as confirmed by both YouTube and AdBlock, YouTube is not intentionally slowing down computers who run the AdBlock program. While YouTube has stated that it intends to continue its anti-ad blocker measures (using ad blockers are against YouTube’s terms of service), we give this claim a rating of false.

This claim was resolved and corrected rapidly – most established news platforms amended and updated their articles covering the claim as soon as new information surfaced. However, what stands out is the disparity in views between the original claim and subsequent posts providing accurate updates. As of the time of writing, the claim post on X has 9.8 million views, while Hill’s posts about the actual issues have had much less reach – Hill’s most viewed post has under 300 thousand views and others far fewer.

This example shows how the rapid spread of inaccurate information – even if not done with malicious intent – can seriously impact public perception of issues. The original claim post merely showed a screenshot of the PCgamer article without a link to the site, which means that users who come across it are not able to directly head to the article and see the latest updates.

It further highlights the continued importance of robust fact-checking, good posting practices (such as providing links to sources), and vigilance as social media users.

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