Animal Advocates

YouTube Sued Over Refusal to Remove Animal Abuse Videos from Platform

A months-long investigation into YouTube found thousands of videos depicting graphic cruelty to animals, with billions of video views, and the potential for the video hosting site to earn millions of dollars in advertising sales.

Animal Advocacy group, Lady Freethinker, filed a lawsuit alleging that the Google-owned YouTube knowingly distributes videos displaying explicit animal abuse, staged torture, suffering, and exploitation.

Lady Freethinker, an animal protection organization, has filed a lawsuit against YouTube in California state court, alleging that YouTube knowingly distributes videos displaying explicit animal abuse, staged torture, suffering, and exploitation. These videos include graphic content such as humans hitting baby monkeys and animals being placed in contrived situations with deadly snakes only to be sometimes “rescued” by a human. The comments on these videos include calls for further torment of animals and expressions of sexual gratification. The complaint asserts that these videos violate YouTube’s Community Guidelines, Code of Conduct, and Terms of Service, as well as California’s consumer fraud laws and federal criminal law.

The complaint demonstrates that YouTube is aware of these videos and its role in distributing them, and that it continues to promote and support their creation, production, and circulation. YouTube rejected Lady Freethinker’s April 2021 offer to assist them in identifying and flagging offending videos for removal, stating that it was not currently accepting entities with “expertise in the policy areas most relevant to your organization at this time.”

Lady Freethinker’s research demonstrates that YouTube has the potential to make millions of dollars from the ads that accompany these videos. In one case, an advertisement for a Google Nest Cam battery ran before a video entitled, “snake eating dog.” Lady Freethinker claims that YouTube’s lack of action has caused it significant harm, because the group has relied on YouTube’s promise to keep abuse off its site, a promise the platform has failed to fulfill as it continues to host videos antithetical to the group’s mission.

“YouTube’s refusal to monitor and remove this disturbing content, despite our offers to assist in this process, has led us to believe that YouTube knowingly benefits from hosting videos featuring the torture of vulnerable animals,” said Nina Jackel, founder and president of Lady Freethinker. “This legal action is the next step in holding YouTube accountable for promoting and profiting off of animal abuse.”

In addition to the lawsuit, Lady Freethinker, through its lawyers Bruce Wagman and Edward Casmere of Riley Safer Holmes & Cancila LLP, sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice urging them to investigate YouTube and enforce federal law which prohibits the creation and distribution of animal “crush videos.”

Lady Freethinker’s 2020 investigation into animal abuse content on YouTube found 2,053 videos violating YouTube’s own policies and displaying graphic cruelty, while garnering 1.2 billion total views. The videos were posted across about 146 channels amassing 30.8 million total subscribers. Lady Freethinker found videos displaying numerous instances of animal torture for amusement, animals eaten alive, hunting via cruel and unusual means, animal fighting and other cases of needless violence against animals for entertainment or promotion. The organization found a sample of six channels on YouTube hosting videos of fake “animal rescues,” garnering 41.7 million views. These staged events represent a harrowing form of animal cruelty in which people purposely place defenseless puppies and kittens in contrived “dangerous” situations that are supposedly in the wild, with approaching predators like snakes and crocodiles, subjecting the animals to terror and attacks only to “save” them just in time. In truth, these “rescuers” needlessly terrorize animals to gain views, subscribers, and subsequently, revenue – potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Lady Freethinker also hosts an online petition asking YouTube to remove all animal cruelty content from its platform and implement a more robust monitoring system to catch these videos. The petition has so far garnered nearly 135,000 signatures.

About Lady Freethinker: 
Founded in 2013 by Nina Jackel, LFT is a Los Angeles-based nonprofit organization dedicated to exposing and stopping the suffering of animals, humans, and the planet. Through its undercover investigations, news reporting, and petitions, LFT brings to light suffering that may otherwise go ignored and works toward lasting, systemic change. LFT also provides direct aid to animal rescue.

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