Socia media giant YouTube is planning to ban fake animal rescue videos from its platform after an investigation showed the proliferation of channels set up designed to solicit donations.
The ban follows an investigation and months-long campaign from animal activist groups about the new trend, initated by animal welfare organization Lady Freethinker (LFT).
Nearly 50,000 supporters signed a petition set up by LFT after it investigated the proliferation of YouTube videos showing puppies and kittens near snakes that were about to strike before someone swopped in to “rescue” the animals.
LFT’s investigation identified at least 17 such falsified rescue videos across six YouTube channels with more than 41.7 million views over a period of months.
LFT has since advocated relentlessly for the removal of the videos, accountability for the animal abusers, and justice for the animals.
LFT Founder Nina Jackel said the ban — announced by Google on March 25 — is long overdue.
“We are very glad that YouTube will no longer allow these grossly inhumane videos on its platform,” Nina said. “We urge YouTube to share publicly the details of its new policy and its timing for implementation. If this policy is robustly implemented and enforced, this will be a true victory for animals and for the many activists and investigators who have exposed the truth about these cruel and dangerous videos.”
Google said its policy development team started a deep dive into animal abuse policies after noting a surge in the popularity of fake “rescue” videos and had been working for “a while” to create policies that would be robust and enforceable.
Colin Goulding, the company’s head of trust and safety, told Lady Freethinker in an emailed statement that the move is consistent with the company’s crackdown on abusive content.
“Our team responds quickly to emerging trends and we are constantly evaluating whether policies need to be further defined,” Goulding said. “YouTube has always had robust policies in place around animal abuse and harmful content that violates these policies is removed immediately.”
Since the original investigation, LFT has discovered dozens more channels with fake “rescue” videos, with hundreds of videos and millions of views. The videos are filmed cinematically, with perfect cutscenes and timing to make the content creators appear as “heroes” — whereas in reality, the fake “rescuers” are needlessly terrorizing animals to gain views, subscribers, and revenue.