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In a significant development, social media platforms operating in the United Kingdom are set to face substantial fines if they fail to proactively prevent the publication of animal cruelty content on their platforms. Under a recent amendment to the online safety bill, tech companies will be required to take swift action against such content, or risk penalties of up to £18 million, or 10% of their global revenue. This marks a notable shift in the legislation and emphasizes the importance of protecting animals from online harm.
Ministers in the UK have highlighted that causing unnecessary suffering to animals is a priority offense in the amended online safety bill. This change places animal cruelty content on par with other serious illegal content that platforms are mandated to address, including child sexual abuse images and terrorist content. It signifies a crucial step in acknowledging the responsibility of tech companies to ensure their platforms are not used to promote or facilitate the abuse of animals.
Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan underscored the importance of this amendment, emphasizing that an animal-friendly country like the UK should not tolerate the dissemination of content that promotes sadistic and harrowing actions towards animals. This move reflects the government’s commitment to protecting both animals and users of social media platforms.
The amendment to the bill mandates that social media platforms put in place robust systems and procedures to identify and remove material that encourages or facilitates animal torture. This proactive approach ensures that such content is swiftly addressed, preventing its proliferation on these platforms.
The amendment was initially proposed by Labor peer Baroness Merron in the House of Lords, demonstrating cross-party Support for this crucial change. It responds to concerns raised by various stakeholders, including animal welfare organizations and investigative journalism.
The need for this amendment was highlighted by the case of the “Monkey Haters,” as revealed by a BBC investigation. This investigation uncovered a global monkey torture ring operating on social media, with Facebook being one of the platforms hosting “dozens” of such groups. While Facebook claimed to have taken down the groups brought to its attention by the BBC and stated its policy against the promotion of animal abuse, the case illustrates the challenges platforms face in effectively addressing such content.
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