The Zoosadism Channel: A look at a trend of animal abuse on social media (Part 2).

by Patch O'Furr

CONTENT WARNING – Part (1) A Killer – (2) A Trend – (3) A Watchdog

Huge platforms are letting it happen. It’s under their noses, according to this June 2021 report. National Geographic: How fake animal rescue videos have become a new frontier for animal abuse.

That’s disturbing at wide scale, because of how social media attention meets psychological escalation. Part (1) looked into the Omegle Cat Killer, where an investigator said: “Animal abusers have total power over that animal and, if someone is willing to be that cruel to an animal, evidence suggests they may target vulnerable humans as well,” said Special Agent in Charge Paul Keenan, FBI Indianapolis.” — Kokomo Tribune

Despite such a warning about the extremes, it seems like the odds are against justice. A standout example among furries was Kero the Wolf, a popular Youtuber exposed in a zoosadist crime ring. The evidence led to arrests, but child abuse was the focus and most members got away with it. Kero’s attempts to gaslight the public about his innocence made him The O.J. Simpson of furries. His presence highlights a gap in the laws.

This part covers the exploitation on social media, and Part (3) will feature someone working to bridge the gap.

A content pool with no lifeguard

In 1940, protest rose up about a horse tumbling over a cliff in a Western movie. It triggered regulation for the industry to stop using animals like disposable props. Now Hollywood movies get American Humane certification by following a 132-page guide. But tech platforms aren’t so regulated.

The internet gives unprecedented reach, and lets out the best and worst behavior on an infinitely granular level. (Washington Post: The country is being buffeted by groups that couldn’t exist 30 years ago.My favorite example for demonstrating the power of the Internet to form ad hoc groups is furries…”) Platforms are automated and let users regulate themselves from private locations. That’s how animal abusers connect with each other like never before, and fly past local laws. “They’re accused of abusing their pets in viral videos. But laws don’t always consider it cruelty.” And: “YouTube Won’t Ban A Guy Who Crushes Animals to Death.”

Of course, animals can’t speak for self-regulation, and nobody’s watching when the cameras stop. People who control their welfare are enjoying a form of cruelty theater, like dogfighting, but tailored to individual proclivities to maximize reach. Some watch for the fake cuddly feeling of watching an animal get “saved” from busy highways or burial in mud. Some are chasing special fetish content.

In 2017, The Reptile Channel on Youtube rose out of furry “vore” fetish groups. It uses a false front about live-feeding animals for science, but it’s not for science, and it’s hiding in plain sight. In 2021, despite protest and the ban of a previous channel under the concealed owner, the channel is still growing with over a half million subscribers. (The most popular video has 33 million views!) The “educational” front is a flimsy excuse to artificially pit animals against other animals, and force-feed them after neglect or starvation to keep them hungry.

Youtube’s algorithm is hungry for the views. But when I originally tried to flag the Reptile Channel for policy violations, I couldn’t even find a category for it. Compare that with the difficulty of removing an even more obvious channel. A 17 year old Youtuber (labeled Peluchin Entertainment) beat cats to death for attention — raising widespread protest and even inspiring copycats — but it took months to take the channel down.

The cost of exploitation

Exploiting this system is easy, and it’s a systemic flaw. It’s the same gap exploited by fake news hoaxes, trolling and harassment, and messing with elections. The gap makes rising fascism and social destabilization, and the extreme result can be genocide. While we look at “just animals,” the stakes are more than we know.

Content flows through this gap like the industrial waste of Big Tech. The public pays for the damage while private owners profit. The business is built on cutting corners because “progress” means replacing human moderation with algorithms. Less views = lower stock prices, so we’re always underpowered to match the scale. Free speech idealists can debate in the marketplace of ideas, but animal victims can’t, and what’s the point in arguing about cruelty if cruelty is the point?

Federal regulation and Trusted Flaggers

Big Tech vs Big Government is a bigger story than we can cover here, but we can look at some developments.

In late 2019 in the U.S., a new law, the PACT Act, made animal cruelty a federal crime for the first time. It lets agencies work across jurisdictions. I found interesting info about it in a podcast about investigating animal crime.

Crimes Against Nature’s episode “The Killing Fields” talked to experts about unsolved horse killings in 3 states.

(At 15:20): “These law agencies are doing what they can with the resources they have to bring these criminals to justice. They’re working with sister agencies and sharing info across county lines, but no info has been shared state to state. With crime in multiple states, would a federal agency like the FBI get involved?

The podcaster consulted the FBI in Dallas:

“Beginning in 2016, the FBI began collecting data on crimes against animals. Acts of cruelty, according to their website, are now counted alongside felony crimes like arson, burglary, assault, and homicide in the FBI’s National Incident Based Reporting System (NIBRS).

By adding animal cruelty offenses, agencies and advocacy groups are hoping the results will reveal a more complete picture of the nature of cruelty against animals. The National Sheriff’s Association was a leading advocate for adding animal cruelty in the dataset. For years they had cited studies linking animal abuse with other types of crimes, most famously serial killings. They point out overlap with domestic violence and child abuse.”

To my understanding, it’s rare and challenging to make a case they’ll pursue. But down on the community level, investigators and watchdogs can work with allies you might not know of: Trusted Flaggers. They are volunteers including “individuals, government agencies, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs)“. The role goes to users chosen for high accuracy with pointing out YouTube violations, who get a back door to get them reviewed.

One such ally was key for catching the Omegle Cat Killer. This starts to address a need that came up in a furry news interview with criminologist Jenny Edwards, who consults with the legal system about animal crime. Her advice for when a community like furries finds abuse within:

“There needs to be a conduit – not necessarily me, but someone like me – who can put a case together and get it into the right hands.”

American Humane says if you see cruelty online, the first step is reporting to ic3.gov. For next steps, read Part (3).

  • NEXT: A WATCHDOG SHARES WORK IN FIGHTING ANIMAL CRUELTY.

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