Reporting animal cruelty content to social media platforms:
All you need to know
Are you convinced that social media platforms do not take any action on animal cruelty content? You’ve reported a video to YouTube and it wasn’t taken down? Do you think that reporting to Facebook is pointless?
Does this sound familiar?
You come across an animal cruelty video on social media. Your first instinct is to report this video to the platform, as your only tool available to voice your discontent. Knowing where and how to report animal cruelty can be really hard or the option may not even exist, but you do your best to report the content anyway. Soon after your report, you receive feedback from the platform: the content you reported doesn’t breach the platform’s policies, or, due to a high number of reports, the platform hasn’t been able to review your report. Yet, the video that you reported is blatant cruelty and you know very well that it breaches their policy. This is also not the first time that you have reported such videos and that the platform’s feedback disappointed you. You have stopped believing that reporting is useful and you know that platforms never remove content featuring animal cruelty.
We understand the frustration and we too are familiar with this scenario. The Social Media Animal Cruelty Coalition (SMACC) was created to tackle this type of issue and is able to offer you a different perspective on what reporting means, how it works and to expose the bigger picture.
It is very easy to feel disheartened by the platform’s feedback stating that the content wasn’t removed. However, it’s important to remember that millions of people use social media and that your report is not an individual attempt, rather, it feeds into thousands of other reports from other users, and this is key to keeping the motivation to report content.
The more people report content to the platforms, the more the platforms pay attention to the content reported and the issue at large.
A video might get removed after a certain number of reports has been reached, so each individual report is crucial.
It can take days, weeks, or even months for a video, photo or account to get removed. This is why a video / photo is rarely taken down from your report, and this is why it is so common to receive disappointing feedback from the platforms.
However, we know that your report was useful nonetheless!
Thousands of links are reported to the platforms and to SMACC. A study of our data shows that by February 2023, our volunteers had reported 3251 links to us and to the platforms, and that 47% of these links were removed by the platforms! This is almost 1 video out of 2 removed eventually by social media platforms.
This is thanks to efforts from all of you, social media users, who have voiced their discontent when faced with such content. On our end, we apply additional pressure and we can try and make long-lasting changes.
It is vital to rethink how reporting works and what it achieves: if you are expecting short-term results (the platform removing the content after your individual report), you might be disappointed. But reporting helps tackle the issue in the long-term, and this is where we see results.
Instead of seeing reporting as an immediate solution and being frustrated from the immediate platform’s feedback, let’s refocus our understanding of what reporting means in the bigger picture and what it is set to achieve.
Let’s not forget that there are millions of social media users and that by unifying your voice, significant and long-lasting change can be achieved. However, such goals can only be achieved through common strategies and actions.
Now, let’s go back to our scenario:
You have seen an animal cruelty video, you have reported it, and you feel disgust and anger. Why are some people so cruel? Do people not realize this is animal cruelty?
After reporting, your second instinct is to then comment on the video: This is not cute! This is cruel! This is horrible! Please do not support this page!
You are hoping that people will read your comment and learn that such content is not okay, that behind what looks ‘cute’ is a lot of cruelty, or that people might then question what they are seeing.
We understand the urge to comment, educate but also voice your frustration and horror after seeing such content. Seeing animal cruelty on social media is a deeply upsetting experience, for yourself, for the animals suffering injustice, for the consequences it might have on other animals, and for children or vulnerable adults that might come across such content.
However, we must think of what interacting with such content actually means. When we look at how social media works, it is very simple: it’s a numbers game.
The more views a post gets, the more it is boosted.
The more likes/reactions a post gets, the more it is boosted.
The more comments a post gets, the more it is boosted.
The more shares a post gets, the more it is boosted.
Some studies have shown that commenting can in some cases educate users and that the messaging in comments can become increasingly factual and educational, with a stronger tendency to promote animal conservation. However, this is not always the case and these comments are not a deterrent for social media content creators, who, despite these encouraging comments, do not reduce the number of videos they will produce and post on social media in order to make a profit.
The platforms do not filter whether the comment or the reaction shows anger or enjoyment. So by commenting on these videos, by watching the videos, by reacting or even sharing, you are contributing to making the posts more visible, and thus more popular. And this is the opposite of what you are trying to achieve!
Is it true that some people can learn from social media and that people can learn from comments and opinions shared. However, when it comes to animal cruelty content, we really discourage engaging at all. Chances are that few people will actually be receptive to your comment, you might become the target of violent online attacks, and you might actually become instrumental in helping some people make a lot of money…
Now, let’s imagine this scenario.
I’m a content creator, and I have noticed that macaque videos are very popular. This has motivated me to acquire a baby macaque as a pet and I’m filming a lot of videos every day and sharing them on my page. Some of these videos are ‘cute’, some of them are more rough because I know there is an audience for all types of videos… After a few weeks, I noticed that numbers were going up: I gained millions of views, thousands of people commented on my videos and reacted to them, which was the perfect incentive for me to keep making such videos. I may even get another monkey eventually. Now that I have so many followers and views, I get paid by the platforms, through advertising. My pet monkey has become my business model. I know I can post a video, and I will get paid for it. When looking at the comments, a lot of people are saying this is cruel and that monkeys are not pets, however I don’t read these comments and I have realized that thanks to them, I can make a living out of making these videos.
It is vital to not give such videos and accounts any visibility.
We understand that when you see such videos, you will want to take action. This is why we have put at your disposal our reporting form. It is available on our website at all times and we have created videos on how to add it to your home screen as an app. The form takes a few seconds to fill in only: you just need to copy/paste the link of the post, select which animal cruelty theme most corresponds to the post, and submit.
On our end, this is what happens with these links:
Our research volunteers will add more information to your link: which platform it is on, which animals are involved, if there are any other specific abuse, etc.
These links will be escalated to the platforms directly for reviewing.
These links will allow us to build our evidence database and write our reports.
Of course, we also really need you to report such content systematically to the platform directly - remember that 47% of reports get removed eventually. You are making a difference!
So, to help tackle animal cruelty content, please follow our advice:
Do not watch, engage, comment, or share such content and always report it!