Facebook Has an Animal Torture Empire
Animals are being tortured on Facebook, and hundreds of thousands of accounts are engaging with it.
Note: Today’s story contains descriptions of animal abuse. All images have been censored, and reports have been filed with Facebook’s parent company, Meta. I have also directly approached Meta for comment. At the time of writing, all the accounts mentioned in this story remain active. Please take care when reading.
The algorithm led me there, as algorithms tend to do.
After writing about the proliferation of terrible AI art on Facebook, I started being served AI imagery each day by accounts and pages like “Lisa.”
Hundreds of these images littered my Facebook feed, each with thousands of likes and shares. While many of the interactions came from bots, plenty came from old fashioned human beings.
The computer generated imagery mostly showed children in overly saturated environments, gripping multiple animals in various stages of what some would call “cuteness”. The clues of where this would take me were there all along, I suppose. You start to wonder about the setting and the ethnicity of all the kids, and why the animals are all being restrained by hands or baskets, mouths open as they cry for attention. You remember how a human hand generated these images with carefully constructed prompts.
As I scrolled, certain narratives started to take hold and repeat — cats and dogs were no longer restrained in baskets, they were deep in muddy holes, looking wistfully to a human to lift them out and set them free.
Many Facebook users would scroll past these images without a second thought — but for me, the words uttered by Justice Potter Stewart in the US Supreme Court come to mind: “You know it when you see it.” He was talking about pornography, but during my time on the internet I tend to relate it more specifically to fetish content.
The phrase hit me back in 2014 when I first saw images of young men being tied up and tickled in Adidas sportswear. It happened again when I came across hundreds of videos on YouTube showing young children stepping on lego (that story in 2016 led to YouTube removing thousands of videos).
As I paused to look and see who’d been liking and sharing, Facebook learnt what I was staring at and gave me more. It knew what I wanted, and it delivered.
The accounts posting these pictures had followers in the hundreds of thousands, with thousands of shares across other Facebook accounts. One of the most popular accounts was listed as “Lee C”. Lee C’s page has 13,000 likes and 177,000 followers.
Their header image shows a monkey and a cat — but unlike many of the AI images they post to their timeline, the monkey and the cat are real. A pair of hands appears in the back of the frame; a pair of hands I’ll learn to hate.
You scroll past the usual AI images for what seems like minutes, before arriving on the first video. It shows a young macaque monkey buried in some dirt, before a man begins to dig the young creature out.
‘The pitiful monkey wild trapped into a hole, appreciated dude for saving it from danger,’ reads the caption. The video has 628 views, and like the AI images that came before it, it’d be easy to scroll by and think no more of it.
But stay long enough, and you realise that things are much, much darker. The monkey is incredibly distressed, and it takes a total of six minutes for the man to dig the monkey free. The man talks and pauses, prolonging the video as long as possible.
“Wait wait wait, I will help you. Oh my God,” the man says. He’s found a bottle in a muddy ditch. He picks it up, turning it over in his hands. There’s a screeching, and a tiny hand emerges from the top of the bottle. “Oh my God!” the man repeats.
You realise there’s a monkey in that tiny space, and you wonder how it can even breathe. Five minutes and fifty seconds later, the monkey is free. And at some point you realise, “Oh, he put the monkey in there in the first place.”
As I scroll on through hundreds of AI generated children staring at wide-eyed dogs, I realise there are also hundreds of monkey videos. Some are trapped and buried in soil and mud; others appear to be restrained in the spokes of bicycle wheels and bamboo fences. In some of the more popular videos, the monkeys are being slowly constricted by snakes. There’s endless peril, in every conceivable size and shape. In another video, there’s movement inside an infant monkey’s ear. Slowly, a small grass snake emerges from deep inside its ear cavity. The monkey screams.
Many of the videos involve the same man — “Lee C”. The hands are the same, and the voice. His moniker is often stamped on the videos in comic sans.
All the videos play out like a piece of pornography: the foreplay, the buildup, the release
Animal torture videos have always existed and proliferated online in a variety of ways, but usually on servers and more recently on private Telegram groups. ‘Baby monkeys tortured and killed in videos posted on US-based chat group,’ reported The Independent back in 2021.
An in-depth investigation by the BBC in June last year exposed a network of people exploiting animals, which led to the FBI and the US Department of Homeland Security investigating around 20 people.
BBC journalists went undercover in one of the main Telegram torture groups, where hundreds of people gathered to come up with extreme torture ideas and commission people in Indonesia and other Asian countries to carry them out.
The sadists' goal was to create bespoke films in which baby long-tailed macaque monkeys were abused, tortured and sometimes then killed on film.
These videos have always tended to exist in closed groups.
But now, on Facebook, hundreds of torture videos are hosted and available for all.
I screen-shotted hundreds of Facebook images and videos of animal torture and sent them all to Meta. I requested the pages be removed immediately, and an explanation from the company as to how prevalent this problem is.
All the videos are graphic, distressing, and generating hundreds of thousands of interactions. Some Meta users will be seeking out these videos; others, like me, will stumble there — delivered by the algorithm.
At first I wondered if it was just “Lee C”.
Their account listed them as living in Thailand (Khlong Thanon, Sai Mai, Bangkok) and included a phone number (512 881-8085). The address pin landed in the middle of the ocean, and the US cell was disconnected.
Their YouTube account had been banned, and their email address went unanswered. Lee C also failed to reply to any DMs or Facebook messages.
Their account had been first created in October of 2020, with a stock profile photo of a running dog.
The account was relatively quiet until it started posting AI content in 2023, followed by the first monkey video on December 28 of last year. It showed a wet monkey in a river eating a dead fish. “Poor sad monkey,” the caption read.
Frustrated at a variety of dead ends, I started searching to see if Lee C’s “personal” details appeared anywhere else. Addresses and emails went to more dead ends, but their phone number opened up a multitude of other Facebook accounts, all dealing in monkey torture videos.
“Monkey Siv E” was much smaller, but still had 15,000 other accounts engaging with it, furthering its potential reach. Pages led to other pages, which led to multiple groups and video playlists. Every conceivable way that Facebook categorises accounts and information was being used to offer torture videos.
All the usual Facebook prompts applied — “Follow”, “Join Group”, “Like” — and each account led to more monkeys in more distressing situations.
At this point it was clear I was looking at a different monkey to the one often appearing in Lee C’s videos, and that there were other human hands involved. But the MO remained the same: All the monkeys were restrained in some way, and it takes an unholy amount of time for them to be freed. In one video, a baby macaque shivers, trapped in mud, as the camera slowly zooms in on a tiny hand.
The men never show their faces.
Webworm has reported all the groups, pages and accounts it found, and has reached out to Meta for comment. It’s also reached out to an external New Zealand PR company that represents Meta in New Zealand. Sometimes those niche avenues yield quicker results.
Back on Lee C’s page, I realise the whole thing has slowly changed into a kind of cosmic nightmare. Sure, if you stopped and looked it was fucking horrific all along — but the wannabe Pixar creatures and children sometimes break the mould.
There’s the laughing child in front of the thousand-toothed spider, a toddler shrunken and crawling on the arachnid’s multi-eyed head. Next to that hellscape, a crocodile waits in muddy waters carrying a baby-human spider hybrid on its back — cheeks full and pampered with blush, coarse hair sprouting from the child’s soft, bulbous head.
You look and realise this thing’s been a nightmare all along.
That somehow we’re living in a world where social media giants desperately want your viewership no matter what you’re watching — be it your kid’s soccer game from last weekend, or the arms slowly being torn from a monkey as its pried from inside a plastic bottle.
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Feel free to share this article far and wide, and help create pressure on these social media giants to take some sort of responsibility as publishers: webworm.co/p/facebooksanimaltortureempire.
Also, please watch your kids online. All this stuff is incredibly accessible, and the “cute” AI content is just there to drag you in to a world you do not want to enter.