Animal rights group sues YouTube over abuse videos, says bans not enforced

Animal rights group sues YouTube over abuse videos, says bans not enforced
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An animal rights group is suing YouTube for breach of contract after the platform allowed videos depicting animal abuse to remain on their site. 

The case, filed on Monday in California Superior Court in Santa Clara, alleges that YouTube failed to take action when it was alerted to the abusive videos, according to The New York Times.

The content ranged from images of a giant python wrapping itself around a puppy's neck to a monkey tied to the ground as a snake slithers toward it. As of Monday, the videos remained accessible on YouTube, the Times reported. 

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Lady Freethinker, the animal rights group involved in the case, claims the video platform failed to carry out its agreement with users by both allowing users to post the content on its site and failing to take action when alerted to it.

“YouTube is aware of these videos and its role in distributing them, as well as its continuing support of their creation, production and circulation,” Lady Freethinker said in its complaint, according to the Times. “It is unfortunate that YouTube has chosen to put profits over principles of ethical and humane treatment of innocent animals.”

In a statement to The Hill, Lady Freethinker founder Nina Jackel added that her lawsuit was "only asking that YouTube live up to its own promises and do what it says it will do."

"We shouldn’t have to sue to hold them to their own words," Jackel's statement continued. "Moreover, while we’ve not be able to confirm The New York Times report that nine of the 10 videos it identified to YouTube were immediately removed, assuming that it is accurate it only goes to prove how quickly they can react."

YouTube’s community guidelines prohibit content where "animals are encouraged or coerced to fight by humans" or where animals experience suffering maliciously caused by a human.

Experts say the latest complaint points to YouTube's broader problem with content moderation. Despite the platform's detailed policies about the type of content permitted on its site, enforcement mechanisms are lacking or seemingly ineffective, the Times reported.

"We agree that content depicting violence or abuse toward animals has no place on YouTube," Ivy Choi, a YouTube spokesperson, said in a statement to The Hill.

"While we’ve always had strict policies prohibiting animal abuse content, earlier this year, we expanded our violent and graphic policy to more clearly prohibit content featuring deliberate physical suffering or harm to animals, including staged animal rescues. As with any significant update, it takes time for our systems to fully ramp up enforcement."

On average, approximately 500 hours of videos are uploaded to YouTube every minute, making it difficult for YouTube content moderators to keep up. 

Despite this, Jackel told the Times that a company of YouTube’s size and resources should be able to promptly find and remove clear violations like videos of animal abuse.

--Updated at 3:45 p.m.