During the Covid-19 era, internet enterprises gather to clamp down on illegal wildlife trade
Beijing, China 23rd October 2020—this week the second annual Coalition to End Wildlife Trafficking Online event, organised by the China Wildlife Conservation Association (CWCA), IFAW, TRAFFIC, WWF, and Tencent, took place to review progress against the Coalition’s aims and targets.
Since the establishment of the Coalition in 2018, wildlife conservation issues have been thrust into the spotlight, specifically during the Covid-19 pandemic and its potential link to wildlife trade. This was the first gathering of Coalition members under these circumstances and offered the opportunity to explore and adapt approaches for stemming illegal wildlife trade (IWT) online and initiating a scientific, healthy, and sustainable lifestyle.
"With the rapid evolution and iteration of Internet technology, the form of online illegal wildlife trade has become more and more complex,” highlighted Wu Minglu, Vice General Director, Department of Wildlife Protection Conservation, National Forestry and Grassland Administration (NFGA).
“The Department of Wildlife Protection Conservation, law enforcement and regulatory authorities, enterprises, and non-governmental organisations attach great importance to this issue. The Wildlife Protection Law revised in 2018 clearly prohibits illegal sale, purchase, and use of wild animals and their products or providing hunting tools and services on online platforms, markets, and other trading venues. In July 2020, the National Forestry and Grassland Administration, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, the Central political and Legal Commission, the Ministry of Public Security, the State Administration of Market Supervision and the State Administration of Information Technology jointly launched a ‘special action to crack down on the destruction of wild plant resources’.”
In November 2017, the China Coalition to End Wildlife Trafficking Online was initiated in Beijing. In March 2018, more than ten Chinese Internet companies including Tencent, Alibaba, and Baidu, as founding members, and Google, Microsoft and other international Internet giants jointly established the global Coalition to End Wildlife Trafficking Online. Since then, with the support of IFAW, TRAFFIC and WWF, the Coalition has explored a set of technical specifications that can effectively prevent wildlife trafficking online.
According to available statistics, member companies have deleted or blocked more than 3 million pieces of information suspected of being illegal trade in threatened species and their products.
On 6th August this year, Tencent, together with academic institutions, TRAFFIC and other NGOs and related enterprises, officially launched “The Group Standard for Controlling Requirements for IWT on Internet platforms” on the China Internet Association’s platform, which not only provides executive standards and reference norms for Internet enterprises to crack down on IWT on the internet, a major step forward for wildlife protection in China as well as providing assistance with implementation of international conventions.
Representatives of Tencent and other internet companies participating in this week’s event made the following commitment: “Internet companies will continuously utilise their own advantages in technology, media communication, e-commerce, and other means., to co-operate actively with the government to combat wildlife crimes while strictly managing their online platforms and carrying out user education.”
During the week, three more Chinese Internet companies—37 Interactive Entertaiment, 7788.com, and Zhangyan—joined, bringing the number of Coalition members in China to 21.
Wildlife trafficking online is a global issue. “Wildlife crime linked to the Internet calls for a response from all capable actors, from governments and their enforcement agencies, to conservationists and civil society—but also from online commerce platform owners and their customers,” said the CITES Secretary-General Ivonne Higuero during an online address to the event. “The work of Chinese firms has also been reinforced at the national level, with various legislative efforts and the initiatives of Government agencies to address wildlife trafficking—both on and offline—in recent years.”
In August this year, nine industry associations, including the CWCA and China Wild Plant Conservation Association, jointly issued an Initiative against illegal trade in wild animals and plants, which called on all industry associations to establish a self-discipline coalition against illegal wildlife trade, formulate industry self-discipline conventions, and take practical actions to resist poaching and consumption of wild animals and illegal wild trade . Today’s event is the timely response and implementation of this Initiative.
“In order to crack down and prevent the illegal trade of wild animals on the internet, protect ecological security and public health safety, internet companies should carry out their main responsibilities whilst implementing the requirements of relevant policies and regulations to help prevent their services being abused for illegal activities.” Ling Xu, Director of TRAFFIC’s China office. “TRAFFIC is ready to provide our professional technical support to help internet companies increase their capacity to combat wildlife cybercrime and help avert reputational risks of having wildlife traffickers operating on their platforms.”