YouTube has pledged to look into allegations that it has been carrying thousands of videos of animal abuse.
Animal welfare charity Lady Freethinker has handed the platform the results of a three-month investigation which it claims identified 2,053 videos in which animals were deliberately harmed for entertainment or were shown to be under severe psychological distress, physical pain or dead.
The charity said the videos, posted across almost 150 channels and with 1.2bn views, were in violation of YouTube’s community standards.
“YouTube must do a better job at monitoring and removing all videos that violate its terms and standards, alerting local law enforcement to illegal content, and holding channels accountable for their actions with suspensions and terminations,” said Nina Jackel, founder and president of Lady Freethinker.
The charity said its investigation found videos displaying numerous instances of animal fighting, animal torture for amusement, animals being eaten alive, and hunting using cruel and unusual means.
It also found six channels on YouTube hosting 17 videos of “fake” or “falsified” animal rescues, which had had 41.7 m views. The controversial videos show animals including cats and dogs placed in contrived “dangerous” situations in the wild, such as near predators including snakes and crocodiles, only to be “saved” just in time by a human.
From April to July 2020, YouTube removed 185 of the 2,053 videos identified in Lady Freethinker’s report, accounting for only 136.5m out of 1.2bn views.
The charity said it intends to launch a petition calling on YouTube to immediately remove all videos in violation of its community standards and take meaningful steps to better monitor and remove videos promoting animal abuse.
YouTube said it had requested the full details of the investigation and would ensure that any content in violation of its policies was removed.
A spokeswoman for YouTube said: “YouTube’s community guidelines prohibit any violent or gory content intended to shock or disgust viewers, including the unnecessary infliction of harm on animals. We routinely remove videos and comments flagged by our community that violate those policies, and in many cases we terminate the accounts of users who violate our guidelines.”