Animal lovers and animal rights activists alike are using social media to push back against the online abuse that has been levelled against them by the likes of Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and even Reddit.
With social media platforms struggling to deal with a growing tide of abuse, some are looking to create new platforms that are more ethical and have a zero tolerance approach to cruelty.
They have launched animal cookies strain.
These cookies are designed to keep a record of when and where animals have been mistreated and how many times the abuse has happened, allowing authorities to track down those responsible and prosecute them.
But in a move that could cause a backlash from animal rights groups, a leading animal rights organisation, The Humane Society of the United States, is backing away from the cookies, stating that the technology could not be used to protect the public from animals.
“It is our hope that by using cookies, it can be used as a way to identify where people have used a social media platform and make it harder for them to abuse other people,” said Sarah Erskine-Williams, the group’s president.
“We believe that if we are going to do it, we need to do this the right way, and we need the technology to make it as easy as possible.”
“I think the cookie is a great idea and I’m happy that it’s being explored,” she added.
The group has also launched the Animal Privacy Project, a website that tracks the types of abuse that have been made against the animals that use social media.
“Social media platforms need to be better, and the Cookie will help them become better, by allowing people to use it to help prevent cruelty and abuse against animals on social media,” Ms Erska-Williams said.
“By making it easier for people to report animal abuse online, and for them not to get away with it, it will help us to stop abuse.”
Social media platform giants Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram are among the companies who have been criticised for failing to act on abusive content and have been criticized for allowing people who abuse animals to use their platform to harass them.
“They’re making a huge mistake and they need to change their minds,” said Laura Hough, a professor of law at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
“When we see a company like Facebook that doesn’t have any kind of accountability, we’re not going to support it.”
A report published by The Humane League last month found that the average social media user has shared more than 150,000 offensive and harassing videos online since 2013.
“The number of videos posted online every day on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube is growing at a rapid pace,” the report said.
But it noted that the number of people who were banned from those platforms from 2016 to 2020 rose by more than 80 per cent.
“This increase is particularly worrying because the number banned from platforms has gone up by more people than the number who are banned from other types of platforms,” the group said.
The report also noted that a study by Pew Research Centre found that Facebook had become a haven for abusive behaviour.
“Many of the accounts used for this type of behaviour are also run by Facebook users themselves,” the study found.
“While Facebook is a popular platform for these types of content, its failure to take action against the content on its platform could have significant negative consequences for other communities.”
“Facebook is the only social media company that has not taken meaningful action to address the abuse that is perpetuated online,” Ms Hough added.
Ms Hough said it was important to understand that the platforms’ business model was to serve advertisers, not the community.
“If we want to reduce the abuse of animals in social media, we should focus on that,” she said.