Instagram Unveils New Feature Warning Users Animal Selfies Might Be Animal Abuse

ashley.rae | December 8, 2017
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In addition to Instagram’s resources to combat suicidal thoughts and eating disorders, the popular app for teens has now unveiled a new message warning people about animal cruelty when they search for images of wildlife.

National Geographic reports that when users try to search for images using a hashtag like “#slothselfie,” they wil be prompted with a pop-up message that partially reads, “You are searching for a hashtag that may be associated with posts that encourage harmful behavior to animals or the environment.”

So the next time you want to view an image of a cuddly sloth or a cool picture with a tiger, Instagram will be shaming you for not knowing about the alleged animal cruelty involved in those photos.

Instagram’s new “Wildlife Exploitation” page tells users to examine the “Environmental Considerations” of taking photos walking in a field of wildflowers, which it claims is “never worth a few likes.” When it comes to “Interactions with Wild Animals,” Instagram claims it wants users to be aware of “whether an animal has been smuggled, poached or abused for the sake of tourism.”

Cassandra Koenen, who works at World Animal Protection, told National Geographic that even if an image appears to be innocuous, there can be cruelty going on in the background.

“Even if the cruelty isn't right in front of you, [there’s] cruelty that's behind the scenes to get to that point,” she explained.

Koenen hopes that the Instagram warning will make users second-guess their choice to look up certain phrases and like certain images.

“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.

Instagram reportedly said it will not be revealing which hashtags will prompt the message, as National Geographic explains they want users to “stumble on them organically.” They also allegedly want to avoid the possibility of people simply choosing different hashtags to display their images to get around the message.