Instagram Take Steps to Address Unethical/Harmful Wildlife Photography

We’ve all seen photos online at some point which show a beaming holiday-goer or traveller happily embracing an exotic wild creature, with koalas, sloths, and dolphins being particularly prevalent targets of such activities. Over recent years awareness has thankfully begun to spread concerning the fact that in many cases, the subjects of these photos are subjected to harm and cruelty all in the name of a like-worthy snap.

Instagram, given its image-focused nature, is a natural home for such content, but the company are now taking steps to stop the spread of material on their platform which hay be harmful to animals or the environment.

“We care about our community, including the animals and the wildlife that are an important part of the platform,” Instagram’s 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.”

Following the announced update, if you attempt to search for several hundred terms deemed to include content which is potentially harmful to the animal subjects of the associated photos or the environment as a whole, the app will throw up a flag saying “Protect Wildlife on Instagram”, explaining that “you are searching for a hashtag that may be associated with posts that encourage harmful behaviour to animals or the environment”. After being presented with this rather blunt message are you able to see posts, learn more, or cancel the operation.

It is hoped that the presence of such warnings will make people pause and reflect, as explained by Cassandra Koenen, head of wildlife campaigns at World Animal Protection, who worked on the list with Instagram.

“If someone’s behaviour is interrupted,” says Koenen, “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’.”

Instagram have not disclosed which hashtags have been flagged for such treatment as they wanted users to find them organically through their normal use of the platform. They also want to prevent those who intentionally use the platform to facilitate illicit wildlife practices from being able to pre-emptively get around the warnings.

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