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Viral cat torture video shows why we should never engage with cruelty content, even in outrage


WARNING:

  • In order to protect animals, please do not watch or search for the content described below. This only adds to the reach of the content and it is important we do not inadvertently promote animal cruelty content.

  • SMACC does not wish to promote the content any further, but is using this opportunity to show the public what is the most helpful course of action to take when finding animal cruelty content such as this.

  • Content described is distressing.


A video went viral on social media, showing a live cat being put into a blender which is then switched on. The video reportedly first appeared on Twitter and has since been shared across social media platforms including Facebook, TikTok and YouTube. Whilst the original video appears to have been removed from the platforms, it has fueled widespread discussion with social media users posting responses to the cruelty shown, some including screenshots from the video.


Undoubtedly some social media users have shared the video with others who disturbingly want to watch such content. Others shared the video or screenshots from it to express their outrage at the animal cruelty. Some are simply using hashtags associated with the video to comment on its contents, sometimes creating comedy content. Hashtags used on this content have been viewed tens of millions of times.


“Reaction videos” have also been created, where content creators film themselves watching the cruelty video, capturing their reaction. This form of content, despite not directly showing the original video, is unhelpful, as it increases intrigue in the cruelty content and can lead people to search for it.


Unfortunately, all of these users, whether well-intentioned or not, played a part in making the content of this video go viral. Social media algorithms focus on promoting popular content and hashtags, and do not distinguish between positive and negative interactions. So no matter how we engage, we are sadly contributing to the problem.


SMACC is really encouraged to see the outpour of concern for the cat, but advises that the best thing people can do when they come across such content, is to not engage with it at all, and instead report it to the platforms as animal cruelty. SMACC also collects reports of animal cruelty. SMACC is in contact with social media platforms about this video and others showing animal abuse.

From conversations with social media platforms, we know they do pay attention to the types of content that are being reported. It is one thing that can influence where they put their resources for creating new policies. They need to see that animal cruelty is an urgent issue, and that their users are not happy with seeing such content on their platform.



A widespread problem


Shockingly, this is not an isolated incident of extreme animal abuse. This is just one of thousands of animal cruelty videos being shared across social media around the world. SMACC comes across torture and abuse of animals everyday, when undertaking research into animal cruelty content. This is a global problem, with cruelty content being created in countries across the globe.


A video recently found on a major platform showed a pregnant cat being killed, dismembered and cooked; on another macaque monkeys were being burnt alive and beheaded; and one showed a dog being stabbed with a screwdriver.


In a SMACC report released in 2021, it was found that over 5,000 videos showing animal cruelty collectively had received 5,347,809,262 views.


High views also mean profit for animal abusers. On platforms like YouTube, popular creators are eligible for monetization through adverts on the platform. The more engagement on their videos, the more adverts they show and the more money they make.

They are, quite simply, making money from abusing animals, and our engagement is helping them.




The role of the platforms


As long as social media platforms allow animal cruelty content to be shared, they are providing a literal platform to showcase animal abuse. That is why SMACC is pushing for changes in platform policy and moderation, to take away opportunities for animal abusers.


Most social media platforms have existing policies against violence to animals, however, content like this can still find its way front and center in social media feeds. Frustratingly, platforms are not doing enough to track and remove content, with moderation being generally poor.


SMACC has been working directly with three major social media companies. Changes need to be made in platform policies, but also major improvements in moderation and the automatic detection of cruelty content. Progress is slow but some platforms are starting to make important changes to tackle this.

For example, TikTok immediately removed the content as soon as they became aware of it. They also took measures to help prevent people from attempting to re-upload the video. This is the appropriate action all social media platforms should be taking to protect animals, and to fulfil their policies against violent abuse to animals. SMACC is working with TikTok to support their efforts to tackle animal cruelty content on their platform and is pleased to see proactive response to this issue. The videos also seem to have been removed from Twitter and YouTube.


Shockingly copies of the video remained available and easy to find on Facebook two weeks after they were initially shared. What’s more, these videos had seemingly been reviewed for moderation by Facebook which deemed them suitable to remain live, as a warning message had been applied to the videos, either by a human reviewer or AI. SMACC believes this was the incorrect response, as this content clearly violates Facebook’s policies and should have been completely removed.

The videos were finally removed after SMACC escalated them to our contact at Meta (the owner of Facebook and Instagram).

Animal cruelty should never be shared online in this way and social media companies need to ensure content like this never makes it onto their platforms. These companies still have a lot of work to do to truly protect animals and SMACC will keep pushing for change.


Power in your hands


In the meantime, social media users have a really important role to play. There are meaningful ways people can turn their concern into action that do not inadvertently lead to the boosting of content. SMACC’s 5 Steps were created using technical knowledge of social media algorithms, to limit the spread of cruelty content and to bring it to the attention of platforms.



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