YouTube Automatic Caption FAIL

YouTube Automatic Caption FAIL

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YouTube Automatic Caption FAILs refer to erroneous closed captions that are sometimes produced by Google’s automatic speech recognition technology for videos on YouTube. Since the release of the automatic captioning feature in March 2010, various screenshots of absurd or humorous YouTube mistranscriptions as well as photoshopped instances have been circulating online.


On November 19th, 2009, Google’s YouTube team announced[1] the release of a new automatic captioning feature for select videos, using the same voice recognition algorithm used to translate voicemails sent via Google Voice. Though the service was initially only available for a select few partner channels, the service had been launched for all YouTube users on March 4th, 2010.[4] The same day, several videos demonstrating the inaccuracy of automatic captions were uploaded to YouTube (shown below).


Also on March 4th, YouChewPoop forum member Phoenon[5] started a discussion thread titled “Post inaccurate YouTube transcribed captions here" and AllDeaf forum member Netrox[7] relayed the announcement in a thread titled “YouTube gets Automatic CC Videos,” which was largely met by positive feedback despite its glitchy shortcomings. Throughout the rest of May 2010, several articles about YouTube’s humorous transcription errors appeared on Switched,[6] FilmFail,[8] Mashable[3] and The Huffington Post[2] among others. By September 2011, a single topic blog titled Caption Fail[11] had been launched on Tumblr with both raw and photoshopped screenshots of absurd captions. In 2013, discussion of videos illustrating these inaccurate captions continued on the Daily Dot[14], New Media Rockstars[15] and Crave Online.[16]

Notable Examples

As of August 2013, there are more than 116,000 search results for “caption fail” on YouTube.[10] Screenshots of these captions can be found on FunnyJunk[12] Tumblr with the tag #caption fail.[13]

Rhett & Link’s Caption FAILS

On January 31st, 2011, YouTubers Rhett and Link uploaded an experimental video titled “Lady Gaga Putt-Putt Rally,” in which the duo repeatedly processed their scripted dialogue through the automatic captioning feature, ultimately turning it into a funny, non-sequitur conversation (shown below, top left). Following the success of the pilot episode, the comedy duo expanded their experiment into a semi-regular web series.

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