In his testimony before Congress last week, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg received tough questions from members of Congress about wildlife trafficking and the illegal ivory trade on his two-billion user social media site.
At the Joint Senate Committee Hearing, Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) referenced a recent Time article examining illicit wildlife crime on Facebook, stating, “wildlife traffickers are continuing to use Facebook tools to advertise illegal sales of protected animal parts.” Zuckerberg responded, “we’re going to have more than 20,000 people at the company working on security and content review.”
Yet, these new content review policies could be harmful if Facebook focuses only on deleting the illegal content. Instead, Facebook must work with law enforcement officials to combat the illegal wildlife trade on its website.
Facebook provides a platform that facilitates communication for the illegal ivory trade. Representative Buddy Carter (R-GA) stated, “there’s so much ivory being sold on Facebook that it’s literally contributing … to the extinction of the elephant species.”
This is no exaggeration. Both the Asian and African elephant species are listed as endangered under Appendix I of the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Central Africa lost 64% of its elephants within a decade. Furthermore, the world is currently facing the sixth mass extinction of animal and plant species. Zuckerberg admitted a lack of awareness of illicit ivory trade through Facebook. Once again, he mentioned Facebook’s increased efforts for content review. Yet, he still fails to acknowledge that Facebook profits from the illicit ivory trade and the loss of biodiversity.
In response to the Zuckerberg Hearings and Facebook’s profits from wildlife crime, Stephen M. Kohn, Executive Director of the National Whistleblower Center, stated that “Congress needs to ensure that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) does its job. Permitting criminal activity on a company’s property will ultimately impact the value of the company stock, harming investors. The SEC cannot permit US investors to contribute to the extinction of numerous threatened species including elephants, rhinos, and tigers.”
Senator Coons and Representative Carter should be commended for pressing Zuckerberg on these important issues. The international ivory trade and illegal wildlife trafficking jeopardize diverse ecosystems and species’ survival. The National Whistleblower Center’s Global Wildlife Whistleblower Program seeks to enlist whistleblowers to come forward and expose illegal wildlife trafficking. It is important that we push Facebook to eliminate wildlife trafficking on its site and urge Congress members to make sure online sites cannot be used as a hub for wildlife trafficking.