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BREAKING: BBC documentary exposes online macaque torture groups

The BBC has released a new documentary focused on macaque torture content on social media, and the perpetrators behind this. This fantastic exposé has been supported by SMACC members, Action for Primates and Lady Freethinker, who worked with the journalists on this investigation and have been tracking these perpetrators for over two years.

Analysis of key SMACC data in February this year shows that 70% of animal cruelty content featured primates, the majority of which were macaques. A closer look at links featuring macaques, 60% featured direct physical abuse to the animals. SMACC and its member organizations have been pressuring social media companies to remove such content from their platforms for many months.

SMACC has been escalating these macaque torture videos to Meta, who owns Facebook and Instagram, since December last year when we noticed that perpetrators had become more public by using Facebook. We regularly found videos showing live macaques being burnt, empaled, drowned, beaten, amputated, skinned and killed in various ways. Meta has removed some videos and accounts that we have escalated to them, however, this response has sometimes been slow, with not all videos or accounts having been removed.

Crucially, we have been pushing for Meta to implement proactive solutions to block these videos and the users, but unfortunately Meta has had little to update us on, despite us and our members pointing out the seriousness of this issue and sharing links and screenshots of the torture acts. Indeed, there are still live groups on Facebook showing macaque abuse, as of today.

Meta and indeed many platforms seem limited in their ability, or willingness, to enforce their current policies. For example the recent “cat in blender” video which showed a cat being put into a blender and mutilated when it is switched on, was still live on Facebook weeks after it was seemingly removed from other platforms (that we could locate in our research), even after being escalated by SMACC.

Engaging with social media platforms is a crucial element of tackling animal cruelty content.

The issue of social media animal cruelty content is global, exactly as was shown by the BBC documentary. No one country is to blame, when this content is being shared worldwide. This is why we need to work with social media companies to make sure they are not providing a literal platform for animal abusers. The platforms have a great deal of power, and opportunity to make positive change for animals.

Telegram and Twitter have so far not directly responded to concerns or offers of support from SMACC, however pages and accounts do appear to have been removed. Other social media platforms including YouTube seem to have removed much of the worst content, however, still have thousands of videos showing monkeys being kept as pets and used as entertainers.

SMACC's work will continue, by working with social media platforms, raising awareness and supporting our 19 member organizations who are all working on a local and international level to end social media animal cruelty. It is important that we work together to tackle this issue from every angle.

Crucially, SMACC and our members cannot tackle this issue without the support of the public. As social media users, you have the chance to take action for animals from your phone or computer.

What you can do if you see animal cruelty on social media

It is really important that we take helpful action when we come across animal cruelty content, and do not inadvertently end up promoting it further. Here are 5 steps you to guide you:

If you wish to support SMACC's work towards creating a safer world for monkeys and other animals, please make a donation today. Thank you.

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