TikTok under fire over surprising response to 'messed up' Aussie cruelty video

An account was suspended for just seven days over the animal cruelty video despite its owner facing consequences from police.

Animal Justice Party PM Emma Hurst pictured here at a separate inquiry in June, standing in front of microphones.
Animal Justice Party PM Emma Hurst says TikTok's seven-day suspension was inadequate. Source: AAP

The controversial social media app TikTok is under fire for suspending an Australian account for just seven days, after it live-streamed close to 10 minutes of "messed up" footage. One state politician said she’s surprised the account wasn’t permanently banned, particularly given the man behind it was fined by police.

Criticism of the company's response comes as children's access to social media and disturbing online content comes under increased scrutiny in Australia. The federal government is set to undertake a $6.5 million dollar trial that could see under-16s banned from accessing certain sites. Separately, South Australia is also investigating a ban.

The TikTok Live broadcast showed two dogs savaging a kangaroo joey after it hopped into a backyard. While the man behind the camera laughed continuously as the dogs attacked, one user could be seen shielding her eyes. Another called the incident "messed up". Others called on the man to stop the carnage and reported the account.

The video was filmed in the NSW town of Casino, and the incident was reported by Yahoo News in June. The 24-year-old man who filmed it claimed the resulting outcry had been a beat-up. “Yous [sic] are all taking it out of proportion mate,” he said in response to questions from this masthead.

NSW Animal Justice Party MP Emma Hurst has indicated she believes TikTok’s seven-day suspension was inadequate.

“Where someone has been fined for a criminal offence that was exposed via their social media channel, you’d expect that at a minimum, the network would ban that person’s account,” she told Yahoo on Thursday.

Left - a woman shielding her eyes during the TikTok livestream. Right - a slightly bloody kangaroo joey on a couch after it was savaged during the livestream.
TikTok users were horrified after dogs attacked a kangaroo joey during a 10 minute live-stream. Source: TikTok

NSW Police confirmed to Yahoo News it investigated the matter following reports of an alleged act of animal cruelty. “Following an investigation, a 24-year-old man was issued an infringement notice for committing an act of cruelty upon an animal which carries a $1000 fine,” a spokesperson said last week.

The video was publicly streamed, making it accessible to minors. TikTok confirmed the account's suspension to Yahoo News but has not responded to requests for comment on its course of action taken.

When it comes to the broadcast of animal cruelty videos on social media, Hurst argues regulating it is “complicated”. She said a complete ban of such content could stop community groups from raising public awareness about animal abuse.

“Animal cruelty promoted on social platforms in some sort of sick or perverse way is obviously not accepted by the community, however a blanket ban on animal cruelty videos could do more harm than good,” she told Yahoo News.

“Animal protection organisations rely on social media platforms to get important messages to the public and use these public awareness campaigns to get real change.”

Related: Facebook refuses to remove 'horrible animal cruelty' video

Hurst claims what’s needed to protect animals from violence are harsher laws to punish those responsible.

“A $1000 fine for this horrific act of cruelty is pathetic. These kind of slap of the wrist fines do nothing to deter animal cruelty and make a joke out of animal abuse,” she said.

“If this individual had been prosecuted and given the maximum penalty for an act of animal cruelty ($44,000 or 1 year imprisonment), it would send a much stronger message to the public that this conduct is unacceptable.”

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