Instagram has released its new community guidelines aimed at protecting wildlife. Starting next week, Instagram users will see a pop-up if they try to search or click on a hashtag connected to abusive behavior towards animals or pictures of users holding wild animals.
Educate users on animal protection
The Facebook-owned app has updated its Help Center with new instructions, which say that users should be sensitive towards the environment while talking a selfie and their interactions with wild animals, “and consider whether an animal has been smuggled, poached, or abused for the sake of tourism.”
According to the World Animal Protection, there has been an increase of over 292% in selfies with wild animals since 2014. Of these pictures, over 40% show objectionable interaction with animals like hugging or holding wildlife.
In a press release, the World Animal Protection said, “The explosive trend of posting wildlife selfies on the site has driven the suffering and exploitation of some of the world’s most iconic animals across the globe.”
Through this pop-up, Instagram is trying to teach more than 800 million users to be considerate about interactions with wild animals.
“I think it’s important for the community right now to be more aware,” Instagram’s Emily Cain told National Geographic. “We’re trying to do our part to educate them.”
Further, Cain noted that the pictures taken at newly Instagram-popular spots like Bonneville Salt Flats and Yellowstone National Park could damage the sensitive environments in which these animals live. As a result, the officials may either shut down these spots or tamper with the environment to make it more tourist friendly.
Instagram’s warning system, however, has its limits. Though a message pops up after a user has clicked the filtered hashtag, it will not show up for the user who themselves are posting a photo with the hashtag. In addition, anyone can simply select “show posts” anyway to carry on with their search. According to Instagram, their aim is less about preventing users from opening such photos, than educating them about the harmful behavior towards animals.
Identifying related hashtags
Instagram is working with several wildlife organizations such as TRAFFIC, the World Wide Fund for Nature, and World Animal Protection to filter common hashtags linked to mishandling and abusive behavior toward animals. According to an Instagram representative, hundreds of hashtag combinations will trigger a warning.
For instance, common phrases such as #lionselfie, to more nefarious ones connected to illegal animal trafficking, like #exoticanimalforsale will trigger a warning. Although Instagram has not released the entire list, according to a report by National Geographic, there are plenty of such hashtags that have been compiled for the pop-ups.
Many may question, why it is wrong to hold an animal for a picture? Experts believe that holding some animals causes them distress. Further, the World Animal Protection notes that some animals are beaten and abused before being safe for taking selfies. Animals such as sloths, anacondas, caiman and others are mistreated. These animals are often kept in dirty and cramped conditions, often being taken from their mothers before they are ready.