I post on Instagram a couple times a month, but I often browse pictures on the app at least once a day. I can’t say that I’ve encountered photos like those described in the NatGeo article below, but I’m still thankful that Instagram is taking action to try to keep it that way, by pointing out to people using certain hashtags involving wildlife that the animals may be suffering behind the scenes:
Instagram is rife with photos of cute wild animals—including the exotic and endangered. A picture of someone hugging a sloth or showing off a pet tiger cub is just a click away on the massively popular photo-sharing platform, which serves 800 million users.
But starting [December 4th], searches for a wide range of wildlife hashtags will trigger a notification informing people of the behind-the-scenes animal abuse that makes some seemingly innocent wildlife photos possible.
Instagram will now deliver a pop-up message whenever someone searches or clicks on a hashtag like “#slothselfie.” The message reads, in part, “You are searching for a hashtag that may be associated with posts that encourage harmful behavior to animals or the environment.”
People can then click through to a page Instagram set up in its Help Center to provide a lot more information on wildlife exploitation. Instagram will use the same process for more egregious activity, such as searches for #exoticanimalforsale and other hashtags users post to advertise the sale of live animals or animal parts.
“We care about our community, including the animals and the wildlife that are an important part of the platform,” says Instagram spokeswoman Emily Cain. “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’s decision comes after National Geographic and World Animal Protection’s months-long investigations into the growing industry of problematic wildlife tourism in the Amazon. National Geographic found animals being illegally captured from the rain forest, kept in cages, and hauled out for well-meaning tourists to hold and take selfies with.
Read the rest of the article for National Geographic by Natasha Daly here.