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Progress: TikTok updates its animal cruelty policy

Social media platform, TikTok has launched an update to their Community Guidelines covering animal cruelty content. This went live on April 21, 2023.



These were developed after conversations and information from the Social Media Animal Cruelty Coalition (SMACC) and other animal protection organizations.


Six new main sections have been created in the new Community Guidelines, including one called ‘Sensitive and Mature themes’ with a subcategory of ‘animal abuse’ which expands on which types of content would count as animal cruelty. The Guidelines also contain more details about the trade of regulated goods, including products from endangered species.


The Guidelines will be used alongside other tools to address animal cruelty content on the platform.

Animal cruelty content online is found on almost all social media platforms and even appears on messaging services such as Telegram and WhatsApp. Cruelty content ranges from the most extreme, brutal torture and violence to animals, animals used as entertainers, to the seemingly more “benign” act of keeping of wild animals as pets.

SMACC has been working with TikTok and also with Meta (who owns Instagram and Facebook) and YouTube, to see policy changes and moderation improvements to tackle cruelty content. SMACC has been in conversations with TikTok policy staff since August 2023 and have shared evidence of the many awful forms of animal cruelty that can be found on the platform.


SMACC Lead Coordinator Nicola O’Brien said: “We are delighted with this progressive step taken by TikTok, to better control animal cruelty content on its platform. There is still a lot more that needs to be done but we are pleased to see their proactiveness in addressing this issue. We are very positive about other possible changes to come to protect animals.”



The Coalition is made up of 19 member organizations working in the animal protection field. In meetings with social media platforms, SMACC represents these organizations and their shared goal to see animal cruelty content prohibited across social media.


Cruelty content can still be found online so SMACC’s work with social media platforms will continue. In the meantime, SMACC advises that when people come across animal content they should follow its 5 Steps, which emphasize the importance of not watching or engaging with the content, but to report it to the platforms instead.


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