Instagram adds content warnings for koala selfies

Author: By Heather Kelly, CNNMoney
Published: Updated:
Paris Hilton with koala (Photo via Instagram / Paris Hilton)

Instagram wants you to stop touching koalas.

The Facebook-owned company announced it is adding content warnings to selfies that include wildlife, such as tigers and koalas, when certain hashtags are used.

Dedicated social media posters aren’t typically trekking into jungles and posing next to wild animals. Most take the photos at tourist attractions that offer up captive animals as props, including tigers, lions, koalas, and dolphins. Wildlife conservation groups say these centers often mistreat the animals, and that the daily contact with humans can be traumatic.

“To better educate our community members about creating content that exploits wildlife and nature, today we are launching new in-app products to encourage everyone to be thoughtful about interactions with wild animals and the environment,” the company said in a statement.

If you click on an offending hashtag like #koalaselfie, #lionselfie #koalahugs or #tigerpet, a new warning will pop up. You can go ahead and view the photos, cancel your search, or learn more from an Instagram help page.

“You are searching for a hashtag that may be associated with posts that encourage harmful behavior to animals or the environment,” the warning reads.

The Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife on Sanibel partners with the Florida Society for Ethical Ecotourism to ensure the interactions its visitors have with animals are beneficial. CROW also issues guidelines for those who encounter animals in the wild:

  • Never approach wildlife too closely
  • Never feed wildlife. “It is harmful to them as well as to you,” CROW Development and Education Coordinator Rachel Rainbolt said.
  • Avoid animal breeding and nesting areas. Stick to trails, and leave only your footprints behind.

Instagram is not the first social site to wade into the tiger-selfie debate. In July, dating app Tinder asked users not to use selfies with tigers in their profiles, at the urging of PETA.

“Posing next to a king of the jungle doesn’t make you one,” said Tinder in a post at the time.

Like Tinder, Instagram isn’t banning the photos or taking the selfies down. The hashtags still auto-populate in search results. However the company says it does remove images that depict animal abuse or the sale of endangered animals. It’s working with a number of organizations including the World Wildlife Fund and Traffic on enforcement.

#KoalaSelfie 😎🐨

A post shared by Paris Hilton (@parishilton) on

Posting shots with cute animals is popular on the app. There are are more than 3,000 posts just with the hashtag #koalaselfie, including one posted by Paris Hilton one week ago.

This is not the first time Instagram has policed content. It has pop-up warnings for other topics, including suicide, self-harm and eating disorders. Searches for hashtags like #thinspiration bring up a window that warns about the dangers of eating disorders and include a link to a page with mental health resources.

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