Facebook is Profiting from Illegal Wildlife Traffickers

While Mark Zuckerberg was testifying before Congress about Facebook providing user information to Cambridge Analytica, additional disturbing news about his company was making headlines.

Facebook has been making a profit by selling ads on pages that are operated by illegal wildlife traffickers. The pages sell the body parts of endangered animals, according to a complaint filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

That’s right, Facebook has allegedly been making money off of the sellers of items like elephant ivory, rhino horns and tiger teeth — in fact, an Associated Press article included a screen grab of a Facebook group page displaying buckets full of the teeth.

According to the complaint, Facebook is violating its responsibilities as a publicly-traded company by knowingly profiting from the criminal trafficking of endangered species. The anonymous whistleblower complaint was filed in August 2017 by the law firm of Kohn, Kohn and Colapinto.

As for just how much Facebook is profiting from these ads, the company has never disclosed in its regulatory findings the revenue it may be earning from illegal traffickers, the AP reports.

Hopefully the complaint will launch an SEC investigation into exactly how much of the company’s annual $41 billion revenue is from the sale of endangered animal parts.

Ironically, Facebook was one of 21 technology companies, including Google and Microsoft, that joined the Global Coalition to End Wildlife Trafficking Online just one month ago. The coalition’s goal is to reduce online wildlife trafficking by 80 percent over the next two years.

“Extinctions are forever, so it is an urgent necessity to stop the trafficking on Facebook of critically endangered species immediately and forever,” said the law firm’s Stephen M. Kohn in a statement April 10. “Part of the SEC’s responsibility is to ensure that Facebook investors aren’t unwittingly involved with the criminal trafficking of endangered species.”

That same day, Facebook released its own statement saying it doesn’t permit the sale of wildlife, endangered species or their parts, and that it removes groups that have been identified as engaging in illegal conduct.

But according to the statement from Kohn, Kohn and Colapinto, a months-long investigation of various social media platforms by the law firm’s undercover team found “rampant wildlife activity in two places: Facebook and Instagram.”

(Instagram – surprise! — is owned by Facebook.) The statement described the amount of wildlife parts being sold in closed and private Facebook groups as “horrifying.”

“At a time when the world is losing 30,000 elephants a year to poachers, the amount of ivory sold on Facebook is particularly shocking,” the law firm stated.

Its undercover team identified more than a dozen wildlife trafficking networks operating on Facebook and traveled to Vietnam and Laos to meet with ivory traders to confirm they were actively marketing their products on the social media platform.

The word “horrifying” was also used by Gretchen Peters, executive director of the Center on Illicit Networks and Transnational Organized Crime, a nonprofit dedicated to helping governments and communities more efficiently counter these groups.

“I have looked at thousands of posts containing ivory, and I am convinced that Facebook is literally facilitating the extinction of the elephant species,” Peters told the AP.

Instead of helping to decimate what’s left of endangered species, Facebook could do a lot to save them by turning over the information it has about wildlife traffickers to authorities – just like it turned over information about users to Cambridge Analytica.

Doing so could help lead to the largest wildlife law enforcement operation ever, the law firm of Kohn, Kohn and Colapinto said in its statement.

Facebook is already losing users, along with billions of dollars in shareholder wealth, over its mishandling of their private information. Even more users and shareholder wealth could (and should) be lost over the very troubling news that Facebook is apparently enabling the illegal trafficking of endangered wildlife.

Please sign this petition urging Facebook to stop advertising on the pages of illegal wildlife traffickers, remove the pages and report these criminals to authorities.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

144 comments

randi Lass
randi Lass21 hours ago

Suspiciously a similar petition appeared on the AWF sight but disappeared when I posted the link on Facebook. I have now reposted this one.

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Julie D
Julie Dyesterday

Wow, very disappointed to learn this.

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Dot A
Dot A2 days ago

Easiest 1st step to corruption = love of money ~ commonly spoken as 'greed.' Our nation is rampant with it. As the downtrodden become more subjugated to growing toxic economic systems, the greed seed is contagious, and allows for more to become enablers which fall into the corrupt system as well. This is a human weakness, flaw, fork in the growth of any individual. We have a choice. To love money, or to love one another. FB is obviously of the cash loving group. I'd even go so far as to label the human brain as Dinosaur Brains when it comes to short term survival behavior. If we were more evolved, we'd use our vision of benevolence to create a global system of protection, preservation, restoration, equity, fairness, and a life of good-will, obtainable by each and every one. But, the dinosaur can only see itself and grabs at any and all things for selfish survival. We could do better, when we choose to do better. FB is just another antiquated business model of greed for the selfish. This is older than Methuselah. Just looks modern and deceives those who don't heed the warnings. Technology is going to make our choices even more deceptive in the future. I pray that we become wiser for the challenge! {nothing new, all things have been here forever, just gets reshaped, and we are put to the test of character}

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Marija M
Marija M2 days ago

So very sad... :( money, money...

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Ruth S
Ruth S2 days ago

UGH! Thanks.

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Toni W
Toni W2 days ago

TYFS

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Toni W
Toni W2 days ago

TYFS

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Amanda M

Thanks for sharing

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Amanda M

Thanks for sharing

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Roberto MARINI
Roberto MARINI3 days ago

thanks for this intersting post which I read with great pleasure. Congratulations!

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