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Instagram cracks down on animal exploitation with new content warnings

Elephant photographed in South Africa

Starting from today, Instagram users who search for tags associated with animal cruelty or exploitation will see a content warning regarding what they’re about to view.

Clicking on a hashtag like “#koalaselfie” or #tigerselfie” will bring up an interstitial warning screen that reminds users that animal abuse and sale of endangered animals are not permitted on Instagram. 

“You are searching for a hashtag that may be associated with posts that encourage harmful behavior to animals or the environment,” the warning says. Users can click through to a help page , which explains the policy in more detail. The section on interaction with wild animals, for example, reads as follows:

“We also encourage you to be mindful of your interactions with wild animals, and consider whether an animal has been smuggled, poached or abused for the sake of tourism. For example, be wary when paying for photo opportunities with exotic animals, as these photos and videos may put endangered animals at risk.”

“Instagram works with wildlife groups to identify and take action on photos or videos that violate our community guidelines, such as posts depicting animal abuse, poaching, or the sale of endangered animals and their parts.”

Users will now be warned when searching for potentially connected to animal abuse

Users will now be warned when searching for potentially connected to animal abuse

The move follows a comprehensive New York Times report detailing the animal trafficking that takes place over Instagram. The report detailed how Daniel Stiles, a trafficking detective, was able to quickly locate an Instagram account offering various young animals for sale. Stiles sent the account a message saying “looking for young otans”, and soon received the response: “2 babies, 7.5k each. Special introductory price.”

It’s worth noting that Instagram hasn’t made any major changes to its existing rules, and that you can still click through the warning to see the flagged content if you wish. Furthermore, while searching for something like “#tigerselfie” will bring up the warning, we were able to post our own image using that same tag and didn’t receive any such warning. We therefore wouldn’t be surprised if further measures are introduced in the not too distant future.

You can read the full announcement here