We need to get the obvious out of the way before getting into the focus of the story: the primary purpose of social media video web sites like YouTube is for the posters of the videos to make money. If there are any YouTubers who have not monetized their channel and continue to regularly post videos, there are as rare as hen’s teeth. A recent survey showed that people access YouTube for entertainment. Dog videos are among the most popular for the simple reason is that they are so cute and naturally playful. But since YouTube has been around for more than a few years, the growing number of new channels that involve dog videos means that the newcomers who want to attract viewers need to come up with an idea that will keep people coming back. The motive, of course, is money. And that has led to an increasing number of people willing to cross the line and engage in animal abuse to keep their viewers coming back.
There is a strangeness to the thinking of these dog abusers. If they were to perform the same actions on a person they would in all likelihood be arrested. But because the victims are dogs there are few laws on the books to protect them. The police can classify the behavior as disturbing and reckless, but not criminal. But placing laws on the books will never be a permanent solution to exterminate the infestation of these dog abusers from the Internet.
However, it seems the solution lies in the individual viewer who subscribes to a channel. Some people subscribe, then never return, keeping the subscription number high enough to keep the channel owner making money. There are those who don’t watch every video that is posted, so may never see the ones where animals are abused for profit. And there are those who simply ignore the problem, thinking it is someone else who will take care of the problem.
The question is who will put the effort in to make the owners of these animal abuse channels literally pay by making their channel unprofitable? The first thing that comes to mind is something that has been trending on YouTube for some time – the response video. The poster doesn’t have to show the entire video clip but they can bring attention to the channel name, channel owner’s name, and some select of their video clips that have become popular and draw people to the channel. Then drop the hammer and show that despite the appearance of being a dog friendly channel it is actually a shroud for abusing animals. If this comes off sounding as a crusade of some type, then it is.
A larger problem is the size of the Internet. Not every country respects the rights of animals as other countries do – and those countries that do are not solely Western nations. The criminal mentality, as shown in the story if you read between the lines, is that it’s not a crime unless you get caught. And in the event that you do get caught you create a plausible story or just outright lie with the hope that you might lose some viewers and subscribers but keep the cash flow going. Being able to specifically identify the poster or country that the poster is from can be like trying to find a needle in a haystack. They post the video with the specific intent of being anonymous if they do get caught. The money is in the bank and they continue to follow their darkened heart.
Animal lovers will ask the question of what has happened to the moral values of people, whether it is in the treatment of people or animals. After all, the Internet has turned into a global playground, with the idea that everyone should learn about and accept the morals and values of other people’s cultures. But that has in part led to the increasing number of animal abuse videos because in certain parts of the world domesticated animals have the same value as a cockroach. Laws to control such behavior are non-existent and are likely to remain so because there is no reason to change the status quo. While videos posted on YouTube gain a lot of attention, the fact is there are 10,000 other web sites that invite others and post even worse mistreatment of animals. Does it matter if a dog is being mistreated in the United States or in Zimbabwe?
Perhaps the most troubling aspect of the story is that in order for the poster to profit from the video they have to have viewers of the video. Because the goal is to make money through viewership, the owner will simply do the math and decide whether there is enough blowback to take down the video and apologize or to just continue with business as usual. But there are people who want to see this type of video and are just as disturbed as the poster, thinking it is funny or just worth watching. It’s similar to the transaction between a drug dealer and the buyer; it’s hard to know who is really the bigger threat to society.
The bottom line to all this is the quest for money without actually performing a meaningful service to society. YouTube, owned by Google, pays channel owners on a per view basis as it gets its revenue from advertisers. Targeting the advertisers is nearly impossible given the size of both YouTube and the Internet. Besides, that works in the real world, not on the Internet. It looks like it has become the survival of the fittest – for both channel owners and the small, helpless creatures they profit from. As a final note on the insanity of this, here is a story about how an online animal abuse database was shut down due to privacy concerns. Some news never gets reported.