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Online animal cruelty activity to be removed from social media platforms

The amendment, which has been tabled in Parliament recently will crack down on animal torture content online.

  • Crackdown on animal torture content online as government boosts protections for animals and internet users.
  • Social media sites will be required to proactively remove the illegal activity, with fines imposed for those that fail to do so.
  • Change comes as the Online Safety Bill makes its way through Parliament – with new laws to be introduced in a matter of months.

Social media firms will be forced to remove online content facilitating animal torture in a further push to make the UK the safest place in the world to be online. 

Under new proposals, social media platforms will be required to proactively tackle the illegal content and have it swiftly removed, or face fines of up to £18 million or 10% of their global annual revenue.

The amendment, which has been tabled in Parliament recently, will require platforms to put in place systems and processes to tackle content that encourages or facilitates animal torture. The amendment comes after untiring campaigning by Baroness Merron to further strengthen the Online Safety Bill’s laws around animal torture content.

It also means even if the activity takes place outside the UK but is seen by users in the UK, tech companies will be made to take it down as part of a zero-tolerance approach.

Recent examples of facilitating this includes the Monkey Haters case, a year-long BBC investigation which uncovered a sadistic global monkey torture ring stretching from Indonesia to the United States. This demonstrates how social media can be used to pay for or give instruction to others on the torture of animals. The recent amendment will force social media companies to put in place proactive steps to tackle this. 

Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan yesterday said:  

This kind of activity is deeply disturbing and not something an animal-friendly nation like the UK should ever tolerate.

Social media sites must not be used as platforms to promote the sadistic and harrowing actions of some deeply depraved internet users, and today we’re taking steps to make sure it is swiftly removed so both animals and users can be protected.

The Online Safety Bill will make the UK the safest place in the world to be a child online, and it will now stop the proliferation of animal abuse too.

Yesterday saw the UK Government list section 4(1) (unnecessary suffering) of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 as a priority offence in the Bill.

The changes will work alongside other recent government amendments to protect children from content showing real or realistic serious violence or injury against an animal. 

Environment Secretary Therese Coffey yesterday said:

We are a nation of animal lovers and the UK has some of the highest animal welfare standards worldwide. 

Animal abuse is abhorrent and should not be circulating online, so these new rules will ensure social media platforms act swiftly to remove this content.

New strengthened protections will force social media companies to proactively tackle instances where their services are being used as part of the process of animal torture.

The Online Safety Bill is a new set of laws to protect children and adults online. It will make social media companies more responsible for their users’ safety on their platforms.

The Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Act 2021 now provides one of the toughest sanctions in Europe. It strengthens the UK’s position as a global leader on animal welfare and realises our manifesto commitment to increase the maximum sentences available to our courts for the most serious cases of animal cruelty. We have raised sentences from 6 months to five years imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine.

Notes for Editors:

  • This amendment is being tabled ahead of the House of Commons considering amendments made by the House of Lords next week.
  • Animal torture content will now be classified in the Bill as a priority offence, bringing it to the same class as other types of content like child sexual abuse, threats to kill, and revenge pornography that social media companies will be required to remove or face fines.


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