As a small group of students from Chatham University, we have found it important to address the issue of incorrect subtitles on online streaming platforms, which include but are not limited to Netflix and YouTube. Incorrect subtitles are a major issue, especially when talking about the deaf and hard at hearing communities. When subtitles and captions do not portray what the actors are actually saying, people who are deaf and hard at hearing do not get the same viewing experience as those who are able to hear.
To combat this major issue, we created an educational blog, which highlights the importance of catching captions when they are wrong, as well as showing YouTubers how they can edit their own captions to give everyone a fair viewing experience.
Since April 2014, streaming companies have been required to provide subtitles and closed captioning. Though this may seem great, this captioning is done automatically, without the carefulness of human touch.
The problem with automatic machine translation is that it does not have the capability of registering emotion like; sarcasm or a crowd cheering. It also does not have the ability to register foreign languages. Instead, automatic captions often say something like, “speaking in foreign language,” which doesn’t give everyone an equal viewing experience.
Image taken from https://www.reddit.com/r/mildlyinfuriating/comments/8p68l9/captions_that_dont_do_what_captions_are_supposed/
“It just types what it registers,” stated Atlantic writers Nam and Quartz. “Imagine watching classic baseball comedy Major League and only hearing the sound of one fan shouting from the stands. Or only hearing every other line of lightning-fast dialogue when watching reruns of the now-classic sitcom 30 Rock.”
One solution to this captioning issue is crowdsourcing, which allows for communities of fans to translate videos into multiple languages through platforms like Viki and Amara. Crowdsourcing gives captioning the necessary human touch that machine captioning lacks. It allows for true fans of a television show or movie to edit captions for other fans who can’t get the same experience through machine captioning.
Though captioning has come a long way, a little bit of elbow grease needs to be put into making captions accurate and equal for all viewers.
“YouTube auto-captions are often such poor quality that content is not accurately communicated to people who depend on captions such as people who are Deaf and hard of hearing,” stated ITSS from The University of Minnesota.
More often than not, streaming networks like, Netflix and YouTube use the automatic captioning tool for their videos and movies. Though they may think that they’re doing the video justice by providing captions, the subtitles at the bottom of the screen are so wrong that Deaf viewers might be better off without even watching.
By providing incorrect captions, Deaf and hard at hearing viewers are not able to have the same viewing experience as those who are able to watch the videos and movies without captioning. With this being said, it isn’t crazy to think that Netflix and YouTube would steer away from using the automatic captioning tool and instead manually enter the subtitles but alas, they haven’t.
Netflix is aware of the incorrect captioning and has had yet to solve the issue. YouTube, on the other hand, has added an option where YouTuber’s can manually edit the captions of their own videos, which is great but YouTuber’s either don’t know about this tool or are just too lazy to edit their captions themselves.
With this being said, do the Deaf and hard at hearing communities a favor by manually editing your own captions and subtitles.