Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Illustration for article titled Hulu facing accusations of elaborate video throttling conspiracy in new class action lawsuit
Photo: Chesnot (Getty Images)

A very healthy and well-justified level of mistrust in big tech companies has convinced us that some issues or poorly designed features are actually bad on purpose, mostly because these companies are all evil, but some particularly disgruntled Hulu users are actually taking their frustrations to court. According to Variety, Hulu is facing a class action lawsuit in California that accuses it of purposefully throttling the video quality on its website, supposedly dropping it to a sub-HD level, with complaints going back months—meaning this isn’t related to any increased demand for streaming content during the coronavirus pandemic.

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The lawsuit points to posts on Hulu’s community help board and Reddit, with customers going back as far as last summer saying they had asked Hulu why the video quality on their PC was crummy while it was fine everywhere else. Hulu’s customer service representatives said that HD streaming on the website had been temporarily shut down and directed the users to try streaming apps instead. This, according to the lawsuit, is where things go from annoying to evil: Supposedly, Hulu disabled HD streaming on the website on purpose, and it’s guiding users to switch to the apps because they make it easier to track their personal data. In other words, it’s a big conspiracy to convince you to keep using Hulu but only in the specific way that suits Hulu’s supposedly evil goals.

At least based on Variety’s report, that last bit seems more like a theory than an actual accusation. Still, it adds a fun level of spice to an otherwise straightforward lawsuit about unsatisfied consumers. Now we just sit back and wait for the inevitable courtroom action where a lawyer accuses Hulu of being evil and then Hulu just starts cackling maniacally as piles of stolen user data pour out from behind its razor-sharp teeth… or maybe Hulu will change how the quality on its desktop site works and then this will get dismissed and we’ll never hear about it again. Or maybe it’ll get dismissed anyway. Or maybe there will be a quiet settlement. We have no idea.

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