In a positive step for animals, social media companies will be forced to proactively remove animal cruelty content from their platforms in the UK, or face huge fines.
This regulation will form part of the UK Online Safety bill which aims to protect children and vulnerable users from harmful content online. Previously, the bill did not prioritize content showing cruelty to animals, something which SMACC members and other animal protection NGOs have been challenging together since 2021.
Under the new regulation, animal torture content will be classified as a “priority offence”, and will be added to the existing list of offences, which includes sexual abuse, revenge porn and threats to kill (of humans). Crucially, this amendment will also cover cruelty activity that has taken place outside of the UK but is seen by social media users in the UK. This means that if content showing animal abuse is filmed and uploaded from outside of the UK but can be seen on the platforms from within the UK, social media companies will be responsible for taking down the content. SMACC welcomes this sensible decision about the origin of cruelty content, because by its very nature, social media is global and has no borders.
SMACC fully supports this latest amendment by the government to protect both animals and social media users. SMACC’s research has shown that animal cruelty is widespread online, with some videos garnering millions of views. Frustratingly, social media companies do not do enough to prevent such content from being shared on their platforms nor do they enforce their own policies well enough. The proposed amendment to the Online Safety bill will provide an impetus for social media companies to take responsibility and stop providing literal platforms for animal abusers.
Amendments to the bill are still being agreed upon by Parliament and are expected to be finalized in the next month. In the meantime, SMACC continues to work directly with social media platforms to improve policies about animal cruelty, and their enforcement.
SMACC wrote to Meta in July 2023, regarding the macaque torture and abuse content that is available on Facebook. The letter was signed by 33 animal protection organizations from around the world, calling on Meta to do more to remove this content, and those who share it, from the platform.