‘Unchecked’ social media platforms fuel border migration crisis, industry experts say

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McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) – Misinformation and misinformation on social media platforms, like Facebook, encourages illegal migration to the United States as well as illicit hatred of migrants, cybersecurity and migration experts who call on Congress to better regulate the industry say.

Criticism of social media platforms escalated on Monday following a “60-minute” report of a whistleblower and former Facebook employee who copied thousands of pages of documents she said prove that the company places its financial interest on protecting the company from harmful disinformation and misleading information in order to make a bigger profit.

In this September 16, 2021 photo provided by CBS, Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen speaks with CBS’s Scott Pelley on “60 Minutes,” in an episode that airs Sunday, October 3. (Robert Fortunato / CBS News / 60 Minutes via PA)

During a media call by the Immigration Hub on Monday, several industry experts said Facebook, in particular, can and must do more to patrol its platform. They said Facebook must remove hateful disinformation and intolerant messages against asylum seekers, as well as groups that target migrants and vulnerable populations and encourage them to migrate illegally to the United States.

“What we are seeing with Latin America and this massive wave of migrants at the border is very closely linked to the amplification of opportunities for human trafficking on social networks. We’re also seeing this target Haitian migrants, ”said Katie Paul, director of the Tech Transparency Project, a nonprofit collaborative research and monitoring initiative targeting the tech industry.

“It’s not just about encouraging people to travel to the United States or Mexico, but a lot of misinformation that is not checked on the platform is amplified and encourages people to travel to the United States. United, ”said Paul.

The platforms essentially provide free advertising for human traffickers, Paul said. There are even Facebook groups created by smugglers. One of those Spanish groups is called Immigrant Caravan 2021, she said.

“On Facebook, it’s so prevalent that we’re even seeing smugglers offering discounts for children and for women traveling alone,” Paul said.

Migrants wearing bracelets provided by human trafficking operations are seen on April 8, 2021 in La Joya, Texas. (Sandra Sanchez / Frontier Report File Photo)

In April, the Tech Transparency Project released a report, “Facebook is full of human smugglers who lure migrants,” which attributed Facebook’s algorithm – which regulates what content users see – to promoting human trafficking. on its platform.

The report found 50 Facebook pages offering illegal border crossings “without any Facebook app“, according to the report.

The report also cites Facebook’s Messenger pop-up providing an easy way to contact administrators of human trafficking pages, which are typically done through WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, or direct messaging.

A group created on November 16, 2020, called “EMIGRANTE DE VARIOS PAISES EN MÉXICO” (“Immigrants from various countries of Mexico”) had amassed more than 230,000 members by April 7, according to the report.

Source: Tech Transparency Project report April 2021

Another report released by the organization in June, “Human Smuggling Rampant on Facebook Amid Border Surge,” found that “human smugglers often post routes, modes of transportation, prices and even drop-off options to customers. potentials on Facebook. Many are spreading misinformation about the ability of migrants to enter the United States, promising quick and easy asylum. This fuels the false hope on the part of many migrants that they will be released by the US border patrol rather than returned to Mexico.

In response to a question from Border Report, Paul explained that in many Latin American countries – including the Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador – Facebook controls the free internet service by offering it. through its app, which encourages users to visit its site. .

“Now that we know what the Facebook whistleblower said, it is clear that they were not only facilitating this kind of traffic, but based on the whistleblower’s documents, they were knowingly taking advantage of it,” Paul said on Monday.

“The fact that these smugglers exist and that they can be successful on these platforms is because they operate on a platform that tells migrants that it is easy and safe to enter the United States,” Kelsey said. Suter, vice president of GQR, a policy research agency. and consulting firm.

Migrants, mostly Haitians, are seen on September 17, 2021, camping under the Del Rio International Bridge in the remote Del Rio area of ​​Texas where they attempted to seek asylum in the United States. (Sandra Sanchez / Frontier Report File Photo)

Sutter said there was an unusually high amount of information posted in Creole on YouTube encouraging irregular migration to the United States.

Last month, more than 16,000 migrants, mostly Haitians, camped under the Del Rio International Bridge in South Texas, thinking they could seek asylum in the United States. Now there are fears that an additional 60,000 Haitians are heading north through Panama en route to the United States.

Internal documents released by the Wall Street Journal also allege the company was aware of how Instagram is negatively affecting the mental health of millions of teenage girls.

Facebook released a lengthy statement defending the company’s actions and claiming it employs thousands of workers to help browse content and protect the public.

“We have invested heavily in people and technology to keep our platform secure, and have made tackling disinformation and providing authoritative information a priority,” Lena Pietsch, director, said on Sunday. political communications from Facebook.

Laura Edelson, co-director of the nonprofit Cybersecurity for Democracy, which testified to Congress last week on the need for increased technological transparency, said the following conditions must occur:

  • Facebook should make its information about public content available to researchers for study.
  • Facebook must increase the staff devoted to the patrol platform.
  • Congress must create full platform transparency by enacting binding laws.



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