Dear Mark Zuckerberg,

We are writing to you from the Asia for Animals’ Social Media Animal Cruelty Coalition (SMACC), a network of 20 animal protection organizations focusing on preventing animal cruelty content on such platforms as those operated by Meta. The Asia for Animals (AfA) Coalition is a network of local and international animal protection and conservation organizations.

We, the undersigned, are writing to urge you to take comprehensive action to prevent and remove animal cruelty content from your Facebook platform. We wish to further emphasize the serious issue of content depicting primate torture and abuse being hosted and shared on Meta’s platforms.

As you are no doubt aware, the torture of macaques for video content has recently been the focus of a BBC documentary, The Monkey Haters., The documentary highlights the use of social media by a global monkey-torture ring stretching from Indonesia to the United States that is producing, sharing and selling online monkey torture content. SMACC has been bringing this type of content to Meta’s attention since December 2022. Indeed, Facebook is mentioned in the widespread news media coverage surrounding the broadcast of the documentary.

The BBC investigation revealed that hundreds of people, mainly in the UK and US, meet online to discuss, request and pay for extreme and sadistic torture to be carried out on baby monkeys in Indonesia. This brutality and the monkeys’ terror and suffering are filmed by the abusers and videos are then posted and circulated on social media platforms. To date, two perpetrators have been convicted and imprisoned in Indonesia, one individual charged in the USA and several people arrested and released under investigation in the UK.

Two SMACC members, Action for Primates and Lady Freethinker, worked with a local animal protection organization, Jakarta Animal Aid Network (JAAN), to investigate the disturbing world of online monkey cruelty, and provided information and intelligence to law enforcement agencies in several countries, as well as the BBC for their investigation and documentary.

The brutal and sadistic nature of the videos includes monkeys having parts of their body set alight or cut off with a knife; their eyes drilled out with a power tool; monkeys locked inside a jar filled with red ants or water; eyes gouged out with scissors; and bones broken with pliers.

Although initially circulated on encrypted messaging apps, such as Telegram, these violent and graphic videos are now being widely posted on Facebook.

SMACC has been working with Meta since 2021 to tackle the animal cruelty content that regularly appears on your platforms. We are pleased to have had the opportunity to develop our relationship with Meta, most recently through your colleague Conor Sanchez, Stakeholder Engagement Manager for Policy Development. However, almost two years later, we and our collective millions of supporters are disappointed that little progress has been made on key cruelty concerns such as monkey torture, and that some of the worst forms of animal abuse are still freely available on Meta’s platforms. More recently one of our coalition members wrote to your board’s oversight committee on the eve of Meta’s annual shareholders meeting at the end of May this year and expressed similar concerns.

Meta must take immediate, concrete action to address monkey torture and abuse content by substantially improving policy and moderation, immediately removing videos depicting monkey torture, and closing down the accounts on which they appear. Meta should also report such offenders to the authorities, especially in light of the police investigations taking place as a result of evidence gathered from the documentary.

Together, SMACC and Meta have discussed a range of animal cruelty content themes regularly found on Instagram and Facebook. The abuse of primates used for social media content has been one of our priority areas for discussion for over a year, due to the frequency of such content on your platforms, and the suffering experienced by these animals. Of the thousands of links in SMACC’s database, over 80% feature primates. The vast majority of these depict these primates being directly physically or psychologically abused, often infant monkeys, some of whom appear to be only a few days old. This has included extreme physical violence and a great number of videos showing suffering macaques being kept as pets.

Since December 2022, we have been regularly and urgently escalating content to Conor Sanchez, found on dedicated Facebook groups and pages showing the extreme torture of macaque monkeys. Some of this content was removed by Meta’s moderation teams soon after escalation, which we understand to be the correct action in light of your policies against violence to animals. Meta teams also blocked one related hashtag that led systematically to this content. We were pleased to see swift and tangible actions put in place to remove such content.

We are extremely frustrated, however, that Meta has since taken little proactive action to prevent such content from being shared on the platform in the first place, or to tackle repeat offenders. As our research indicates, reactive measures are simply not sufficient to tackle such content.

There are also extensive moderation inconsistencies related to such content. Many of the links we located had appeared to have been moderated by Meta’s moderation process, as the content was covered with “sensitive” or “warning” screens, while remaining freely available instead of being removed. Once the content was then escalated to Meta via Conor Sanchez, most were removed. It is unclear why different moderation decisions have been made at these different stages of escalation. It is also unclear why some videos were not removed. We were unable to get any explanation for this despite repeated requests for clarification.

Monkey torture content found in Facebook groups has been created and shared with group members for their enjoyment of watching infant macaques being violently abused, tortured, and even killed. This is clear from the nature of the groups and the discussions which take place, focused on their mutual hatred of macaques, and their expressions of desire to see them hurt. Meta’s policies on “Violent and Graphic Content” and “Coordinating Harm and Promoting Crime” both apply, with both policies stating such content will be removed.

We therefore request that you put measures in place without further delay to prevent such content from appearing  on your platforms.

Meta policies:

Violent and Graphic Content

Policy rationale:
…We also remove content that contains sadistic remarks towards imagery depicting the suffering of humans and animals.

Do not post:
Sadistic remarks

  • Explicit sadistic remarks towards the suffering of animals depicted in the imagery.
  • Offering or soliciting imagery that is deleted or put behind a warning screen under this policy, when accompanied by sadistic remarks.

Coordinating Harm and Promoting Crime 

Policy rationale:
In an effort to prevent and disrupt offline harm and copycat behaviour, we prohibit people from facilitating, organising, promoting or admitting to certain criminal or harmful activities targeted at people, businesses, property or animals. We allow people to debate and advocate for the legality of criminal and harmful activities, as well as draw attention to harmful or criminal activity that they may witness or experience as long as they do not advocate for or coordinate harm.

Do not post content that falls into the following categories:
Harm against animals

Coordinating (statements of intent, calls to action, representing, supporting or advocacy) or depicting, admitting to or promoting acts of physical harm against animals committed by you or your associates.

Monkey torture content continues to be uploaded to Facebook, even as recently as July this year despite Meta’s awareness of this issue. Disappointingly, despite our ongoing dialogue with Conor Sanchez, we have not received any formal updates about what actions Meta are/will be taking to deal with monkey torture content and the groups and individuals that promote it.

In the days since the BBC documentary was released, global attention to this issue has grown significantly, with dozens of press outlets covering it worldwide. Discussion has focused on the horrors of the acts committed to the animals in the videos, and crucially for Meta, how social media companies are effectively allowing this to take place on their platforms. The negative reputational damage of the presence of such content on Facebook  must surely be of great concern to both shareholders and Board members at Meta. Interest continues to grow on this issue, and Meta must be seen to be taking action to remove such content from their platform.

We believe that now is the time for Meta to address this serious problem, by taking comprehensive, systematic, enforcement action that goes beyond just preventing cruelty content. Individuals who belong to these online torture groups should be forever removed from Facebook and reported to the authorities. Meta’s incredible technology should be used to prevent such content appearing in future, using the full arsenal of tools at your disposal.

Either through our contact Conor Sanchez or otherwise, Meta should provide an outline of its plans relating to the suppression and prevention of monkey torture content and other forms of abuse to primates on the platform. By continuing to allow these videos and posts on your platforms, Meta is complicit in the torture of infant macaques.

As part of our working relationship, SMACC and our members would be extremely keen to report publicly on the positive action Meta is taking to protect animals. We sincerely hope we will be in a position to do so very soon.

We would appreciate a response by email to [email protected] and would like to hold a meeting together to discuss this matter further.

Sent on behalf of AfA’s Core Member Organizations: 

  1. Anima Society for the Protection of Animals (Macau) (ANIMA)
  2. Animal Concerns Research & Education Society (ACRES)
  3. Animal People Forum
  4. Animal Protection Denmark
  5. Animal Rescue Cambodia (ARC)
  6. Animals Asia Foundation (AAF)
  7. Blue Cross of India (BCI)
  8. Born Free Foundation
  9. Change for Animals Foundation (CFAF)
  10. Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations (FIAPO)
  11. FOUR PAWS International
  12. Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS)
  13. Humane Society International (HSI)
  14. International Animal Rescue (IAR)
  15. Jane Goodall Institute – Nepal
  16. Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS)
  17. Samayu
  18. Sarawak Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA)
  19. VShine Animal Protection Association
  20. World Animal Protection (WAP)

Sent on behalf of the SMACC Member Organizations: 

  1. Action for Primates
  2. ACRES
  3. Animals Asia Foundation (AAF)
  4. Born Free Foundation
  5. Born Free USA
  6. Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS)
  7. Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations (FIAPO)
  8. Humane Society International (HSI)
  9. International Animal Rescue (IAR)
  10. International Primate Protection League
  11. Korea Animal Rights Advocates
  12. Lady Freethinker
  13. Pan African Sanctuary Alliance (PASA)
  14. Panthera Africa
  15. PETA Asia
  16. RSPCA
  17. Susy Utzinger Stiftung für Tierschutz (Susy Utzinger Animal Welfare Foundation)
  18. Taiwan SPCA
  19. Welttierschutzgesellschaft e.V. (WTG)
  20. World Animal Protection