Instagram to flag hashtags that can hurt animals

A brown-throated sloth. Instagram will show popup alerts to users who use hashtags that might be associated with the abuse of wildlife the company said Monday

A brown-throated sloth. Instagram will show popup alerts to users who use hashtags that might be associated with the abuse of wildlife the company said Monday

These animals are often victims of the tourism industry, and paying for pictures with exotic animals may put them and endangered animals at risk, the guidelines explain.

Instagram compiled the list of animal hashtags over the space of several months with input from the World Animal Protection, World Wildlife Fund, and TRAFFIC - an organisation that works alongside the WWF to monitor the trade of wildlife. It's a giant step ahead towards the fight against wildlife abuse whereby wild animals like monkeys, tigers, koalas, sloths are abused, thrashed and drugged for human entertainment. "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", she said.

More than 40 per cent of those photos showed harmful interactions with the animal, such as hugging, holding, riding or inappropriately handling the animal, the group found. The presence of these types of images has skyrocketed 292 percent on social media since 2014, according to World Animal Protection.

It may be harmless to snap a picture with a furry friend, but many exotic animals are cruelly and illegally captured from their habitats.

According to CNN, if you search for hashtags like #lionselfie, #koalaselfie, #koalahugs or #tigerpet - either by clicking on it or directly typing it in - a warning will pop up. Unlike traditional e-commerce sites like eBay, platforms like Facebook and Instagram allow would-be traffickers to connect and then take their communications-and negotiations-onto a separate, private platform, says Giavanna Grein, wildlife crime program officer at TRAFFIC.

Instagram has experimented with pop-up messages for other hashtags in the past surrounding suicide, eating disorders and other forms of self-harm, and already has safeguards in place to prevent pictures of animal abuse and the sale of endangered animals or their parts. "We're trying to do our part to educate them", she expressed.

"We are committed to fostering a safer, kinder world both on Instagram and beyond the app", Instagram said in the statement.

Instagram officials want to change that.

Taking a selfie with a wild animal and uploading it to social media may seem like a harmless thing to do.

It's really cool to see Instagram take up this initiative!

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