Smugglers Advertising Illegal Entry Services On Facebook: REPORT

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Kaylee Greenlee Immigration and Extremism Reporter
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Human smugglers advertised illegal border crossing services to migrants looking to enter the U.S. on Facebook, the Tech Transparency Project reported Friday.

Facebook’s algorithm has recommended pages linked to human smugglers despite community guidelines prohibiting human trafficking and actions that exploit individuals, a Tech Transparency Project investigation found.

The social networking website says it does not allow for human trafficking or smuggling content to be posted on the site since it often results in exploitation, according to Facebook’s community guidelines.

“While we need to be careful not to conflate human trafficking and smuggling, the two can be related and exhibit overlap,” Facebook’s community guidelines say. “Human smuggling is a crime against a state, relying on movement, and human trafficking is a crime against a person, relying on exploitation.”

At least 50 Facebook pages offering migrants illegal passage to the U.S. were discovered when searching “viajar a estados Unidos” (“travel to the United States”) and “cruzando a estados Unidos” (“cross to the United States”), according to the Tech Transparency Project.

Over half of the pages were made since last fall and around a dozen more were made in the last month and have operated without intervention from Facebook, the Tech Transparency Project found. The investigation found Facebook’s algorithm even suggested other pages related to offering illegal crossing services to users.

A private Facebook group reportedly located in Las Vegas, Nevada, gained 484 members in nearly two weeks after it was created on March 24, according to the Tech Transparency Project. A group administrator advertised smuggling services on his profile and required users to message him by turning off the post comment functions.

Human smugglers advertising on Facebook told Central American migrants it would be easy for them to illegally cross into the U.S. with their help, NBC News reported. Smugglers are spreading misinformation about the Biden administration welcoming migrants to the U.S. through pages like “Migrants from Various Countries in Mexico” and “Migrants in the Mexico-U.S.A. Border Awaiting Hearing.”

“Travel to Mexico to the United States. Costs $8,000. 100 percent safe,” a post on a public Facebook page said, NBC News reported. “Cross through Matamoros. You walk one hour, after in automobile until you arrive to your relative.” (RELATED: Biden Needs To Acknowledge His ‘Inhumane Border Crisis,’ Republicans Say)

Smugglers leading a group of migrants to the U.S. left a 10-year-old boy alone in a field, the Daily Caller News Foundation reported. A Customs and Border Protection (CBP) official found the boy crying and walking along a rural road, the boy told the officer he feared being kidnapped and was transferred to a processing facility.

“Scenes like these are all too common, as smugglers continue to abandon children in desolate areas, with zero regard for their well-being,” a CBP spokesperson said.

CBP officials encountered over 172,000 migrants including nearly 19,000 unaccompanied minors in March, according to the agency. Law enforcement officials are on track to apprehend more migrants in 2021 than in the last 20 years, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement.

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