Instagram’s new alert system warns users about abuse behind ‘animal selfies’

It may be easy to scroll down your timeline to find posts of cute animals. Instagram, however, is asking its users to beware, because there could be potential abuse going on behind the picture.

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The photo-sharing site rolled out a new messaging system that warns people of possible behind-the-scenes abuse when they search for certain animal or wildlife hashtags. 

For example, if a user types “#slothselfie” or “#elephantride” in the search menu, a pop-up alert appears on the screen. It reads, “Animal abuse and the sale of endangered animals or their parts is not allowed on Instagram. You are searching for a hashtag that may be associated with posts that encourage harmful behavior to animals or the environment.”

Before being redirected to another page, users must then select one of three options: “learn more,” “show posts,” or “cancel.”

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Over the last several months, the social media platform has worked with several wildlife organizations, including World Animal ProtectionWorld Wildlife Fund, and TRAFFIC, to compile a list of animal hashtags that could lead to discoveries of animal harm. The organization did not disclose all of the hashtags as it wants its users to find them as they are searching. 

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“The protection and safety of the natural world are important to us and our global community. We encourage everyone to be thoughtful about interactions with wild animals and the environment to help avoid exploitation and to report any photos and videos you may see that may violate our community guidelines,” the company said in a press release.

By issuing the notifications, Instagram said it hopes to foster “a safer, kinder world both on Instagram and beyond the app.”

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