Instagram aims to combat animal abuse with new alert system

hand offering animal food

Instagram is hoping to make people think twice about taking selfies with wild animals. A new feature has been rolled out that alerts users when they are searching for hashtags associated with harmful behaviour to animals or the environment.

Now, Instagram users will be treated to the following message whenever they search for such hashtags as “koalaselfie.”

Instagram animal abuse message

To develop a list of hashtags that are most associated with concerning behaviour, Instagram gathered input for several months from the World Wildlife FundTRAFFIC, and World Animal Protection on hashtags most associated with concerning behaviour.

According to World Animal Protection, instances of wildlife selfies have risen 292 percent since 2014. The . goal with the new feature is to attempt to get people to stop and consider what taking a picture with an animal can actually do.

“If someone’s behavior is interrupted, hopefully they’ll think, maybe there’s something more here, or maybe I shouldn’t just automatically like something or forward something or repost something if Instagram is saying to me there’s a problem with this photo,” World Animal Protection’s Cassandra Koenen told National Geographic. 

Instagram says that animals used in selfies are often stolen from the wild and kept in captivity under harsh conditions. In many cases, these animals are forced to breed in quick succession, taken from their mothers too early or made to undergo a painful taming process. In others, people removing wildlife from their natural habitat for a selfie has actually lead to the animals dying.

“We care about our community, including the animals and the wildlife that are an important part of the platform,” Instagram spokeswoman Emily Cain told National Geographic. “I think it’s important for the community right now to be more aware. We’re trying to do our part to educate them.”

Instagram is calling the new hashtag feature “phase one” of its ongoing fight against animal abuse and says similar initiatives will be launched in the future.

In the meantime, the company is asking users to report any content that violates its community guidelines when it comes to animal exploitation.

Image credit: World Animal Protection

Source: National Geographic Via: Engadget