YouTube sued over claims of not enforcing ban on animal abuse videos

A nonprofit has filed a lawsuit against YouTube claiming the online video sharing and social media platform has not enforced its ban on videos depicting animal abuse out of concern it could impact revenue. 

The organization, Lady Freethinker, filed the paperwork Monday in the California Superior Court for the County of Santa Clara. According to its website, Lady Freethinker is an animal rights group which "gives a voice to those who cannot speak out for themselves."

The organization, founded by Nina Jackel, said in court documents "YouTube has chosen to put profits over principles of ethical and humane treatment of innocent animals."

The nonprofit further claimed it has found and seen videos including "apex predators such as pythons strike at and attack puppies and kittens (and other family pets) in staged interactions." The complaint also said one video came after an advertisement for a Google product.

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"There are also many forced predatory interactions in which young animals are purposely tortured, harmed, or killed," the complaint continued.

The group — which contends it has alerted YouTube and its parent company, Google, multiple times — also claimed its 2020 report identified "more than 2,000 videos with over a billion ‘views’ of animal abuse" and "By March of 2021 less than 10% of those videos had been removed."

Lady Freethinker is suing YouTube for breach of contract, breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, false advertising and violating California’s unfair competition law. The group is seeking an unspecified amount of damages, removal of all animal abuse videos and allowing the group to be a part of YouTube’s "Trusted Flagger" program to help remove videos. 

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YouTube said it is working to remove the content.

"We agree that content depicting violence or abuse toward animals has no place on YouTube," Company spokesperson Ivy Choi said in a statement to FOX Television Stations Tuesday. "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," she continued. "Our teams are working hard to quickly remove violative content and just this year alone, we’ve removed hundreds of thousands of videos and terminated thousands of channels for violating these policies."

YouTube also encourages users to flag and report videos that show animal abuse.

With regards to allegations regarding profit, the company said it has strict protocols about displaying ads and bans ads on videos that depict violence and other harmful behavior against an animal. 

This story was reported from Los Angeles.