“Does YouTube promote an exotic pet store?This is a question asked by a team of researchers from the University of Adelaide in Australia. In a new study published on April 13, 2021 in the journal Flat one,, identify the weaknesses of the video platform and the ignorance of some of its users.
Videos that collect views
To be interested in exotic animals, you still need to know what those terms encompass. “Exotic animals are animals without a history of domestication or life in captivity that are not traditionally considered pets.“, develops a scientific paper. This includes, for example, primates and certain species of cats. Exposed animals sometimes come directly from wild populations. Those already threatening the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) are weakened. in addition, collected samples they are disoriented and their well-being pushed into the background. “Consumer interaction with the trade in exotic animals has changed dramatically in relation to widespread internet access, where social media is recognized as a major driver of trade that significantly influences public perception.“, the researchers note.
In these places, the amount of data downloaded is significant. And some content therefore eludes regulations, whose guidelines are also sometimes vague. “It is necessary to study how social media platforms influence public perception in order to understand the attitude towards content that includes exotic animals, and also to understand the impact that these platforms have on consumer demand and market globalization.“, the researchers note. YouTube and its more than two billion users worldwide were therefore the ideal target for conducting such a study.
Scientists have carefully studied the comments section of the platform. Their goal is: to analyze the reactions below the video (emojis and comments) to know how Internet users experience the treatment of exotic animals. In the search bar, the authors of this new study typed keywords like “lion,” “tiger,” “monkey,” with the occasional addition of terms like “cute” or “baby”. “Criteria for inclusion included depicting an exotic animal in “free handling,” i.e., in a captive or domestic environment, in some way interacting with a human or other species, emphasizes the study. Videos were only considered if they garnered at least a million viewsA total of 346 videos were analyzed.
“Education is vital”
“Free manipulation was defined as exotic animals showing an unnatural relationship with humans, with direct human interaction being visible in over 90% of the videos analyzed, while over 17% of the videos also described interactions with humans.“, the scientists note. The most popular species was the tiger (Panthera tigris). She was present in almost 50% of videos with wild cats, while the danger of extinction is noticedIUCN. The terms most commonly used, either for videos of primates or cats, were: “cute“,”As“and”love“.
It is obvious to researchers that these videos could normalize the keeping of exotic pets in captivity and increase the public’s appetite for them. Moreover, comments and emojis showed a mostly positive response from Internet users. In the vast majority of cases, they are unaware of the consequences on biodiversity and public health that the proximity of an exotic animal can have to humans. “With comments like “Isn’t that cute?”, We found that people also indicated that they wanted to be close to the animal and have a similar interaction. This is worrying because it could indicate that people believe that these interactions are not only normal and correct, but also desirable, and that they can support the trade in exotic animals.“he worries in Statement Georgia Moloney, co-author of the study.
The authors of this new study emphasize the urgency of public education. “Due to the constant positive perception of the audience witnessed by all the videos, it is suggested that they are not sufficiently informed about the origin of the animals presented and the consequences for their welfare.“, they complain. And to add:”Education is vital to ensure that viewers can recognize inappropriate depictions of exotic animals and is encouraged to report such content in accordance with current YouTube guidelines.“Problem: The platform relies heavily on video reporting by Internet users themselves.
Use of artificial intelligence systems that allow “scanning” of videos and accurate identification of endangered exotic species “should be considered“, the researchers advise.”This technology could be linked to an automated notification that appears with information related to the protection status of that particular species and trade in exotic animals before the video can be viewed.YouTube could also use software that marks key terms in the titles or descriptions of published videos so that they can be viewed quickly.