WSJ: Facebook does little about human traffickers and drug cartels on the platform

Facebook would do little to counter drug cartels and traffickers on the platform, despite repeated urging from employees. That reports The Wall Street Journal, which would have seen internal Facebook documents.

According to those internal documents that The Wall Street Journal writes about, several employees have repeatedly raised the alarm with their supervisors about illegal activities on the platform by users from third world countries. Often ‘barely or nothing is done’, the newspaper concludes. This concerns documents from 2018 to the beginning of this year.

Middle Eastern traffickers, according to the documents, would use the site to frame women to do work for them, after which they would be treated as slaves and, in some cases, forced into sex work. Workers also reportedly warned that ‘armed groups’ in Ethiopia were using the site to incite violence against Tigrayan minorities.

In addition, according to the documents, organs were sold on the site, and a Mexican drug cartel is said to be using Facebook to recruit, train and pay hitmen. All of this was allegedly raised by employees of the platform and also by a research team set up by Facebook specifically to monitor activities of “risk countries”, countries where there is a certain amount of lawlessness. According to WSJ, Facebook would have closed a number of submitted pages, but not the majority.

Facebook internal document explaining how the company’s platforms are used for human trafficking (source: The Wall Street Journal)

Facebook would not be able to detect all illegal activities, according to WSJ, because in some cases there would not be a single employee who can speak the dialect of the illegal groups, and also the automatic systems called classifiers do not know enough languages ​​​​to cover all cases of crime. track down. An employee is said to have said in an internal document: “Our classifiers are not working, and we are largely blind to the problems on our site.”

According to WSJ, Facebook also puts no effort into coming up with a system that will definitely stop the criminals. The platform would find it more important to retain users and befriend authoritarian governments, because that is often necessary if Facebook does not want the website to be blocked in such countries, the documents say.

Commenting on the paper, a Facebook spokesperson said the platform has a “comprehensive strategy” for dealing with such high-risk countries. For example, it would have teams worldwide ‘who together speak more than fifty languages ​​fluently’, and there would be contact with experts and fact-checkers.

In 2018, the UN already sounded the alarm because Facebook in Myanmar would do too little to incite hate on the platform. Then Facebook said it was taking the matter seriously and with experts to ensure that the number of hate messages is decreasing. Germany had already passed a law a year earlier that would allow the country to fine social media companies if they do not delete such messages in time. Based on that law, Facebook was fined two million euros by Germany in 2019 for not fully reporting users’ complaints about illegal content.