By Ayse Koçak, Policy Manager, Illegal Activities & Regulated Goods
Earlier this year, we were thrilled to join the Coalition to End Wildlife Trafficking Online. Established in 2018 by World Wildlife Fund (WWF), TRAFFIC and IFAW, the Coalition brings together e-commerce, search, and social platforms across the world to prevent wildlife trafficking online. Collaboration with partner organizations is critical when it comes to informing, shaping and strengthening our approach to safety, and today we would like to provide an update on how we're continuing our work to protect wildlife.
To raise awareness among our community about the dangers of trading endangered species online, we will soon introduce two Public Service Announcements (PSA) that will be visible to people whenever they search for specific wildlife-related content or hashtags. We use PSAs to inform our community about certain issues and redirect them towards authoritative content.
World Sea Turtle Day
We're announcing these updates to coincide with World Sea Turtle Day. Over the last two centuries these epic mariners have been pushed to the brink by human activity. Habitat-loss, poaching and commercial fishing have wrought havoc on these beautiful creatures - today, six of the seven species are threatened with extinction. Trading sea turtle species or their products is prohibited under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) - yet criminal exploitation and illegal trafficking persists. The internet has also brought new avenues for criminals to exploit and traffic wildlife, which is why we're working with the Coalition to End Wildlife Trafficking Online to introduce these changes.
Environmental champions and wildlife campaigners are working each day to save these magnificent animals. It's our hope that by implementing these changes, we can play our small part in ending their exploitation by criminal gangs and opportunists. TikTok is home to thousands of creators who are passionate about protecting the natural environment, celebrating the wildlife that we share this planet with, and sharing their stories with our community along the way.
To date, there have been over 360 million views of content labelled #Conservation and over 165 million views of specific #SeaTurtle content. Some of TikTok's top creators in this area include Marine Biologist @carissaandclimate and National Geographic's TV Vet Paul Ramos (@vetpaulramos).
Dr Paul Ramos, Veterinarian (@vetpaulramos) said:
"Wildlife around the world is under threat from human activity, including climate change, habitat loss and illegal trafficking. Saving our most beloved creatures is a complicated undertaking - but we can all help protect the natural world. I've seen how deeply the TikTok community cares about our planet and the creatures we share it with, and social media users have an important role to play in protecting wildlife online. I'm asking them to continue playing their part, whether that be reporting suspicious content, spreading awareness online or learning about the dangers of posing for photographs with exotic or endangered animals such as tigers or elephants."
Carissa Cabrera, Marine Biologist (@carissaandclimate) said:
"Our oceans and wildlife that call it home are under extreme pressure from the climate crisis, overfishing, and pollution. Illegal trafficking of wildlife, including their eggs and babies, are leading threats to survival for species like sea turtles. Throughout the world, even in my home of Hawai'i, wildlife trafficking is a growing problem. The internet can be a huge benefit for conservation efforts, but also brings new ways for traffickers to exploit our oceans. That's why it's so important that social media users report any suspicious content that they see online. I've witnessed the passion that the TikTok community has for the natural world, and I'm confident they will continue doing their part to protect our planet."
Our progress on tackling wildlife trafficking online
Our Community Guidelines make it clear that any content that depicts or promotes the poaching or illegal trade of wildlife is not allowed on our platform and will be removed when identified. Since joining the Coalition in March 2021, our teams have removed 73.5% of this kind of content before it received a single view. Our Advertising Policies also make it clear that we prohibit the advertising of products derived from protected animals or the sale of animals themselves.
Giavanna Grein, Senior Program Officer, TRAFFIC at WWF said:
“TikTok’s PSAs will help users better understand the link between wildlife content shared on the platform and the illegal wildlife trade, and empower them to help report suspicious content. Educating the public on this connection is an important step towards reducing wildlife trafficking across online platforms.”
We're excited to continue working with the Coalition to End Wildlife Trafficking Online to protect some of our planet's most endangered animals and keep our community safe from harm. We're confident that this work will help TikTok remain a platform that brings joy and inspires creativity.