Facebook says users can share tips on immigrant trafficking

Facebook has acknowledged that it allows people to share information about how to immigrate illegally or be smuggled into the United States, saying it has crafted the policy to give them a chance to gain asylum. and prevent them from depending on human traffickers.

The company made the confession in a private letter to Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich. Mr Brnovich was stunned by the revelation and wrote a letter at the end of last week to the Justice Department. He called on US Attorney General Merrick Garland to open an investigation into the social media giant and find a way to “end his active encouragement and facilitation of illegal entry.”

“Facebook’s policy of allowing posts promoting human trafficking and illegal entry into the United States to regularly reach its billions of users seriously undermines the rule of law,” wrote M Brnovich. “The company is a direct enabler, and thus aggravates the disaster happening on the southern Arizona border.

He sent a letter this summer expressing concerns to Facebook about its use by smugglers during the Biden border surge.

In a lengthy response, the tech company said it was trying to remove content on drug trafficking or posts “promoting human trafficking services,” but added that people are free to post material. information on illegal border crossing.

“We allow people to share information on how to enter a country illegally or request information on how to be smuggled,” wrote William Castleberry, Facebook’s vice president for public policy. the state.

He said Facebook had spoken to “human rights experts” and estimated that some illegal immigrants would attempt to seek asylum, which is a right under international law. Mr Castleberry also said the company hopes the information sharing will help some migrants sneak into the country on their own rather than turning to “human traffickers”.

Mr Brnovich, in his letter to the Justice Department, said Facebook appeared to equate human trafficking and human trafficking, although they were different crimes. One involves transporting people against the law, usually at their request, while the other is coerced and usually ends in forced labor or sexual exploitation.

Facebook’s defense of asylum is also striking.

In other contexts, the company does not appear to make exceptions to posting illegal activities, such as 3D printing plans for firearms, even though the plans could help victims of domestic violence or harassment. criminal.

The Washington Times contacted Facebook for clarification on its policies, but did not receive a response.

Mr Brnovich took an interest in Facebook after his office attempted to publish anti-trafficking information. He said Facebook blocked the posts.

He said it was “confusing” that Facebook would make it easier to publish a guide to illegal immigration than for a state law enforcement service to publish resources to tackle the criminal behavior of operation.

Facebook said it is trying to limit searches for human trafficking and block ads for traffic services.

“If human trafficking posts are identified, our policy is to remove the content and deactivate the account of the user who posted it,” wrote Castleberry. “Our policy of deactivating user accounts after a single violation of our human trafficking content policy is among our most stringent penalties.”

He said that users can report content they believe exceeds limits and that staff members review the content to decide what to leave and what to block. The goal, he said, is to detect offending messages through automated filtering before users report them.

This includes researching information “relating to human trafficking and illegal drugs”.

“While our enforcement efforts are not perfect – and there is always more work to be done – we have taken strong action to identify and remove content that promotes human trafficking and smuggling. drug, ”the company executive wrote.

Mr Brnovich said in his letter to the Ministry of Justice that these assurances were insufficient. He called Facebook’s policy a “paper tiger”.

While it is the federal government’s responsibility to enforce immigration laws, he said, Arizona can target human traffickers. He said his office was pursuing cases in which sex traffickers advertised on Facebook.

Mr. Brnovich posted the Facebook letter on the Attorney General’s website.

Facebook’s vice president said in his letter that he was revealing confidential business information. He asked Mr. Brnovich’s office to limit the distribution and alert Facebook if anyone asks.

Facebook’s revelations are likely to add to the company’s public woes. The liberals accuse the company of fueling right-wing conspiracy theories, and the conservatives are angry at the platform’s censorship decisions.

It remains to be seen whether the Ministry of Justice acts against the company. The ministry did not respond to a request for comment for this article.

Social media has reshaped migrant smuggling techniques. Migrants respond to Facebook ads in Central America, smuggler organizations recruit US-based drivers on Snapchat, and drivers and migrants connect via GPS pin locations sent via WhatsApp.

Telegram, TikTok and Instagram were also used, according to a database of contraband court cases maintained by the Washington Times.

WhatsApp, owned by Facebook, is the most frequently mentioned app by smugglers, according to the Times database.

Cartel Scouts use WhatsApp to guide drivers to pickups, send updates on Border Patrol movements, and point out routes that are likely to be successful. The Times has uncovered cases in which smugglers use WhatsApp to extort additional payments from families before releasing migrants.

Social media posts are also helping to create waves of illegal immigration. Migrants who arrive in the United States and get caught and released often post online about their success, encouraging friends and family to do the same.

“I have never met an immigrant who did not have a modern cell phone, a smartphone, who was fully connected to the world of social media, and who gave real-time information on where to go, when to go and how. people upstream were doing it, ”Todd Bensman, a national security researcher at the Center for Immigration Studies, told The Times in a presentation this year.

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