TRAFFIC and Facebook collaboration disrupts wildlife trafficking online in the Philippines and Indonesia
TRAFFIC researchers have been monitoring online platforms for illegal wildlife trade for nearly two decades, observing a clear shift from physical marketplaces to e-commerce websites and social media platforms. Research now reinforces that social media apps are the preferred medium for wildlife traffickers to connect with buyers in many regions around the world.
This year, TRAFFIC and Facebook piloted local, near-real-time monitoring and immediate removal of content that violates Facebook’s policies relating to wildlife trade in the Philippines and Indonesia.
From January-May 2021, Facebook cumulatively removed more than 1,953 Facebook groups linked to prohibited wildlife sales operating in the Philippines and Indonesia based on TRAFFIC monitoring data. TRAFFIC highlighted to Facebook repeat offenders and groups that were recreated after deactivation following previous reports. Professional traffickers will continue to create new accounts and pages. However, each removal and blocking of accounts requires them to rebuild their networks, a tedious and unprofitable process in such a fast-moving trade. This also deters more casual sellers and buyers by creating more barriers to their activities.
We are proud to work closely with TRAFFIC Southeast Asia on disrupting local trafficking activities in the Philippines and Indonesia. SEA provides our team with valuable insights that help fuel our fight against online illicit wildlife trade and we look forward to continuing our collaboration in the region and beyond."
Jan Edward Lim, Public Policy Associate Manager at Facebook
Facebook is a member of the Coalition to End Wildlife Trafficking Online, a partnership of 41 tech companies convened by TRAFFIC, WWF and IFAW working together to reduce the illegal trade in wildlife through web-based platforms. Through this collaboration, TRAFFIC regularly shares monitoring data with Facebook and, where relevant, local enforcement agencies about online users, pages and groups offering endangered wildlife for sale on the platform. Since 2018, company members in the Coalition to End Wildlife Trafficking Online have reported blocking or removing more than 4 million listings that violated prohibited wildlife policies.
While law enforcement agencies in some countries have dedicated wildlife cybercrime task forces, they have limited resources to detect and respond to the majority of illegal wildlife content online. TRAFFIC recommends that companies remove user content that falls outside of the scope of law enforcement’s capacity for investigation.
There are thousands of new posts daily. Law enforcement agencies cannot handle all of them alone. Removing the groups and pages where buyers and sellers are trading sends the message that they are being watched and will face action."
Serene Chng, Program Officer for TRAFFIC Southeast Asia
This example in the Philippines highlights the collaborative potential to disrupt global online trafficking networks given adequate capacity and resources between nonprofit organizations and company staff. Information provided to Facebook can also help the platform enhance automated detection filters to prevent new posts, accounts and groups that violate wildlife policies from forming.
TRAFFIC continues to monitor the online wildlife trade in Southeast Asia and aims to further disrupt illegal wildlife trade online in the Philippines and other hotspot areas for wildlife trafficking. Stopping this trade impacts criminal profits, blocks access to buyers and reduces the potential trade of threatened species. Stemming the demand for and access to illegal wildlife is a long-term strategy to protect wildlife by making it more challenging and expensive to traffic online.
WWF is one of the world’s largest and most respected independent conservation organisations, with over 5 million supporters and a global network active in over 100 countries. WWF’s mission is to stop the degradation of the earth’s natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature.
About IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare)
The International Fund for Animal Welfare is a global non-profit helping animals and people thrive together. We are experts and everyday people, working across seas, oceans, and in more than 40 countries around the world. We rescue, rehabilitate and release animals, and we restore and protect their natural habitats. The problems we’re up against are urgent and complicated. To solve them, we match fresh thinking with bold action. We partner with local communities, governments, non-governmental organisations and businesses. Together, we pioneer new and innovative ways to help all species flourish.