Thursday, February 29, 2024

WATCHDOG: Facebook Lets Human Traffickers Advertise; Algorithm Promotes Their Pages

'Facebook’s continued failure to rein in its own platform has yet again allowed bad actors to use its tools to facilitate illegal activity...'

Facebook allows human smugglers who move people from Central America into the United States to advertise their services, and the platform’s algorithms boost their posts, according to a report from the Tech Transparency Project.

By searching common Spanish-language phrases, TTP found numerous pages that advertise human smuggling into the United States.

Searches for “viajar a estados Unidos” (“travel to the United States”) and “cruzando a estados Unidos” (“cross to the United States” yielded 50 results.

The description for a page titled, “Cruze frontera a EUA” (“Cross border to USA”), simply contained the word “coyotes,” the common description for smugglers who often engage in widespread criminal activities, including drug- and gun-runninng and human trafficking.

Some pages have remained on Facebook for more than six months, according to the group.

Numerous smuggler-run Facebook pages offered empty promises to potential illegal aliens by telling them that the journey to the United States would be “100 percent safe,” NBC reported.

A Facebook spokesperson responded to NBC’s report on April 5, saying that Facebook’s Community Standards prohibit “Content that offers or assists in smuggling of humans.”

“The United Nations defines human smuggling as the procurement or facilitation of illegal entry into a state across international borders,” Facebook’s Community Standards state.

The spokesperson said the platform removes these pages when users flag them.

Facebook’s algorithms have the intelligence to promote pages that advertise human smuggling services, but the programmers are apparently unwilling to modify them so that they are automatically removed.

Once a prospective illegal alien clicks on one of the human-smuggling pages, Facebook’s algorithm becomes more likely to suggest other smuggling services to them.

Michelle Kuppersmith, executive director of the left-leaning Campaign for Accountability and parent organization of TTP, accused Facebook of “putting profit over people.”

“Facebook’s continued failure to rein in its own platform has yet again allowed bad actors to use its tools to facilitate illegal activity,” Kuppersmith said. “I hope everyone can agree that an algorithm designed by one of the wealthiest American corporations should not be contributing to human exploitation.”

“The synergistic environment that Facebook designed to make users rely on its tools has created a one-stop-shop for people intent on abusing other humans, and U.S. law,” she added.

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