TTP Investigation: Facebook Still a Haven for Human Smuggling
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 23, 2021
Contact: Michael Clauw, email@example.com, 202.780.5750
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Campaign for Accountability (CfA), a nonprofit watchdog group that runs the Tech Transparency Project (TTP), released a report showing that Facebook, which insists it doesn’t allow human smugglers to use its platform, remains a vibrant marketplace for those illegally selling assistance with border crossings. This follows TTP reports in April and June that identified dozens of Facebook pages offering migrants passage across the U.S. southern border. This update identifies an additional 40 Facebook pages and 17 Facebook groups that openly sell illegal border crossings. It also found several Haitian Creole-language groups and pages encouraging Haitians to head to Mexico and the U.S.—a troubling trend given the crisis in Del Rio, Texas, where thousands of Haitian migrants have been encamped.
Campaign for Accountability Executive Director Michelle Kuppersmith said, “Facebook has had more than enough time to correct a problem that shouldn’t have existed in the first place. Whatever Facebook may be doing to deliver on its promises to rid the platform of human smugglers, if TTP can find these pages relying on obvious search terms, clearly it is not enough.”
One group explicitly named “Coyotes Para Cruzar a Estado Unidos” (“Coyotes for crossing to the United States”), created on August 3, attracted 1,100 members in less than a month. The group produces dozens of posts on a daily basis offering border crossings. Another group called “migrantes con sueño americano y guias de confianza” (“migrants with an American dream and trusted guides”) has amassed over 4,000 members since it was created on May 25, 2021. The group’s cover photo features people using makeshift rafts to cross a river.
TTP also found examples of individuals in Haitian Creole-language Facebook groups encouraging Haitians to head to Mexico and the U.S. On July 26, a member of a 48,000-plus member Facebook group called “APOYO HAITIANO EN CHILE” (Haitian support in Chile) promoted a flight from Chile to Mexico, giving his WhatsApp number as the contact. Another member of that same group on May 28 provided a detailed plan for Haitian migrants heading from Chile to the U.S., including instructions on where to use taxis, buses, boats, and walking routes.
Not only does Facebook’s platform provide a marketplace from which smugglers can operate, its tools serve as convenient resources for smugglers conducting their illicit business. On a page created on July 5 called “Coyote Te llevo a usa 100% Seguro” (“Coyote I take you to USA 100% safe”), Facebook provides visitors with a series of pre-set questions (“How much do your products or services cost?”) that they can use to privately message the page administrator with a single click.
Facebook’s inability, or unwillingness, to clean up its human smuggling problem comes as Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has raised new alarms about the “unprecedented number of migrants” at the southern border. TTP’s previous research has shown that many smugglers promise migrants easy and fast asylum in the U.S.—feeding false hope to a vulnerable population and exacerbating the border surge.
Ms. Kuppersmith continued, “This is yet another example of how Facebook’s continued failure to police its own platform is resulting in real world suffering. Lawmakers and regulators considering how best to hold Facebook accountable should take note and recognize Facebook’s repeated pledges to fix its problems as the hollow promises they are.”
Campaign for Accountability is a nonpartisan, nonprofit watchdog organization that uses research, litigation, and aggressive communications to expose misconduct and malfeasance in public life and hold those who act at the expense of the public good accountable for their actions.