TTP Investigation: Facebook Teems with Human Smugglers Luring Migrants
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 16, 2021
Contact: Michael Clauw, firstname.lastname@example.org, 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 smugglers are using Facebook to offer illegal passage across the southern U.S. border, despite the platform’s insistence that it doesn’t allow human exploitation. The investigation revealed that, in some cases, Facebook’s algorithm is actually recommending smuggler pages to users.
CfA Executive Director Michelle Kuppersmith said, “Facebook’s continued failure to rein in its own platform has yet again allowed bad actors to use its tools to facilitate illegal activity. I hope everyone can agree that an algorithm designed by one of the wealthiest American corporations should not be contributing to human exploitation.”
NBC News reported on April 5 about human smugglers who advertise their services on Facebook, feeding false hope to Central American migrants that they will have an easy time crossing the border. That’s on top of numerous reports over the years showing how smugglers have used Facebook to lure people from Africa and the Middle East to make dangerous sea crossings to Europe.
TTP’s investigation adds to this growing pile of evidence, revealing myriad Facebook pages offering passage to the U.S. found through simple searches such as “cruzando a estados Unidos” (“cross to the United States”). In most cases, the pages didn’t bother to disguise their intentions. One page created on March 4 called “Cruze frontera a EUA” (“Cross border to USA”) had a single word descriptor for its profile: “coyotes,” a widely used term for human smugglers.
The research found Facebook’s algorithm recommending additional smuggling pages to those who have already showed an interest in the topic. Facebook’s pop-up messenger window also provides an easy way for people to privately contact the administrator of a smuggler page (complete with pre-set suggested questions).
Ms. Kuppersmith continued, “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. If Facebook insists on putting profit over people, as it has done for many years, then ‘We the People’ must step in to enforce clear standards on the company that will begin to reduce this real-world harm.”
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.