Cartels use Facebook, Snapchat, TikTok and other sites to drive human trafficking
Collin Anderson • November 18, 2022 12:00 p.m
The world’s largest social media company is under pressure from Republican lawmakers to “take immediate action to stop facilitating illegal immigration” as cartels use its platforms to recruit drivers for people-smuggling schemes.
In a Thursday letter to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Republican senators Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.), Thom Tillis (N.C.) and Steve Daines (Mont.) accused the company of failing to limit the recruitment of these smuggling programs on its platforms, which include Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp. Cartel smugglers often use these sites The Wall Street Journal reported last month, anonymously posting ads promising thousands of dollars to Americans in border states if they complete a short driving job, which essentially consists of picking up illegal migrants who have just entered the United States. For Blackburn, Tillis and Daines, Meta should be able to shut down these services, which they say have “led to a devastating amount of drug and human trafficking and other forms of violent crime”.
“Although your company has developed – and long enjoyed the benefits of – incredibly complex algorithms and other technology to keep users addicted, you claim that you cannot curb these illegal immigration programs,” reads the letter, which Washington Free Beacon obtained exclusively, states. “You have the ability to address this issue, and it is imperative that you take immediate action to stop facilitating illegal immigration on your platform.”
Meta replied to Newspaperreport by saying it “prohibits the facilitation of human trafficking and invests in technology and works with law enforcement agencies to address the problem.” In late January, however, the company privately announced that it would allow users to recruit human traffickers on its platforms, Free Beacon reported. In an internal memo outlining the decision, Meta stressed the need to allow people to use Facebook and its other platforms to “seek safety or exercise their human rights,” a move it acknowledged comes with “tradeoffs” such as scrutiny from “law enforcement and government agencies.”
Meta is not the only social media giant with a cartel problem. TikTok – whose CEO received a similar letter from Blackburn, Tillis and Daines – has been inundated with cartel recruitment services, promising quick cash and lavish parties for those running for the criminal organisations. “Cartels try to get workers… [They] show a lot of money, they show a lot of drinking, partying and everything else,” Brooks County Sheriff’s Department Commander Jorge Esparza told Free Beacon in May. “It’s like a law enforcement joke,” Sgt. Aaron Moreno of the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Department added. “I’ve seen TikTok videos where there are coyotes in a vehicle and they have a long rifle.”
Beyond Meta and TikTok, Blackburn, Tillis and Daines also sent letters to executives at Snapchat and Twitter. The letters include a December 16 deadline for the companies to respond to a series of questions, including the amount of contraband posts on their platforms, whether they use “algorithms and artificial intelligence” to identify and remove those posts, and how they “coordinate with law enforcement to help them identify people involved in smuggling groups.” Neither company returned requests for comment.
Illegal immigration has exploded under President Joe Biden. Customs and Border Protection encountered more than two million migrants at the southern border in the last fiscal year alone, the first time that number has been reached in US history. Still, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre assured reporters in September that the Biden administration has “taken unprecedented steps over the past year and a half to secure our border.”
Border crisis, Drug cartels, Facebook, Human trafficking, Illegal immigration, Mark Zuckerberg, Marsha Blackburn, Meta, Social media, Steve Daines, Thom Tillis