Instagram to warn against hashtags promoting animal cruelty

Starting today, Instagram will notify users when they search for hashtags that could promote animal cruelty or environmental harm.

Instagram already removes posts that depict animal abuse or the sale of endangered animals, but there are some tags — like #ElephantRides — that have the potential to normalise cruel behaviour without expressly violating its terms of service.

Now, when a user searches a tag like that, the app will pop open a content advisory screen that alerts them of the potential harm imposed by the content.

The screen reads:

Animal abuse and the sale of endangered animals or their parts is not allowed on Instagram. You are searching for a hashtag that may be associated with posts that encourage harmful behaviour to animals or the environment.

The app offers the option to reveal the posts or cancel the search — and as the app “remembers” your choice of whether to reveal the posts or not, the screen does not show up during subsequent searches of the same hashtag.

Instagram is also linking users to a help page on wildlife exploitation.

“Whether you’re trying to capture a perfect photo or take a selfie, we encourage you to be mindful of the environment around you,” it reads.

While #CheetahSelfie on Instagram elicits a warning, #WallysCave does not

While the screen pops up for the likes of #CheetahSelfie, #KoalaSelfie, and #ElephantRides, it is less clear which environmental tags will also receive the warning.

#WallysCave, for example, does not elicit a screen despite the Instagrammable Cape Town trail being barred from the public.

This new feature is part of the Instagram Together initiative that sees the platform partnering with various non-profit organisations around the world. It does not require an update, and appears on both the app and the desktop site.



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