But Nina Jackel, founder of Lady Freethinker, said in an interview that there was no gray area with many of the animal abuse videos, and that a company of YouTube’s size and resources should be able to identify and remove these clear violations.
Ivy Choi, a YouTube spokeswoman, said the company had expanded its policy on animal abuse videos this year. Since then, she said, it has removed hundreds of thousands of videos and terminated thousands of channels for violations. She cautioned that it took time to increase enforcement.
“We agree that content depicting violence or abuse toward animals has no place on YouTube,” Ms. Choi said in a statement. Of 10 animal videos that The New York Times shared with YouTube, the company removed nine for violating its violent or graphic content policy. The one that was not removed shows a live rabbit being fed to a python. YouTube declined to explain why this video did not violate its guidelines.
Through its lawyers, Lady Freethinker also sent a letter to the Justice Department on Monday, accusing YouTube of aiding and abetting the violation of “animal crushing” law. Created in 1999 and amended in 2010 and 2019, the federal law prohibits making or distributing videos in which animals are “purposely crushed, burned, drowned, suffocated, impaled or otherwise subjected to serious bodily injury.”
The law allows exceptions for videos in which animals may be harmed in slaughter for food, legal hunting, the protection of people or property, medical research and euthanasia.
In the complaint and letter, the animal rights group said YouTube was profiting from animal abuse because some of the videos ran advertisements. For example, a video of a puppy desperately trying to escape the grasp of a python was preceded by a commercial for Vrbo, the vacation rental unit of Expedia Group.
Many of the comments on the video are also troubling. Under one video in which a baby monkey is manhandled while it screams in terror, one commentator called it a “thrill.” Under the same video, another person wrote that the creator should break the monkey’s arms to instill “some severe discipline.”