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Facebook at the Forefront of Illegal Ivory Trade, Investigation Reveals

By Rose C
Dec 20, 2016 05:53 AM EST
One Ton Of Confiscated Ivory Destroyed In New York's Times Square
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 19: Officials from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service destroy ivory trinkets confiscated by law enforcement in Times Square on June 19, 2015 in New York City. The public event, which was organized to bring awareness to the illegal ivory trade and poaching of elephants, was a coordinated effort between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, New York State's Department of Environmental Conservation and The Wildlife Conservation Society.
(Photo : Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

A recent investigation from the Wildlife Justice Commission (WJC) revealed that large amounts of ivory, rhino horn, and tiger parts are offloaded through Facebook, among other social media sites.

The 18-month-long inquiry in a small village Vietnam conducted by the WJC and the Guardian showed how social media sites are allowing traders greater access to customers and loading off large amounts of illegal ivory, rhino horn and tiger parts.

WJC Executive Director Olivia Swank-Goldman told that "social media provides a shopfront to the world."

Statistics showed that from 51 traders in the Vietnamese wildlife trafficking hub of Nhi Khe, illegal wildlife products worth US$53.1 million are for sale in person and online.          

"It's wildlife trafficking on an industrial scale," Swank-Goldman added.

The WJC scoured Facebook and WeChat where they learned that processed ivory products and pristine ivory tusks and tiger bone paste have been sold on the social media platform through private auctions or secret groups. On the other hand, all payments are processed via WeChat Wallet.

It can be noted that part of the Facebook community standards says, "We prohibit the use of Facebook to facilitate or organize the criminal activity that causes physical harm to people, businesses or animals, or financial damage to people or businesses. We work with law enforcement when we believe there is a genuine risk of physical harm or direct threats to public safety. "

The WJC approached Facebook about the issue and a spokesperson from the social media group told it: "Facebook does not allow the sale and trade of endangered animals and we will not hesitate to remove any content that violates our community standards when it is reported to us."

Social media has been a major player in the illegal trading and world leaders are calling for immediate action.

Early September, Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge called for the world leaders to act on illegal ivory trade during a charity event for Tusk.

Though banned since 1977, the global issue on ivory trade still continues due to the demand of the wealthy for such rare finds. In a report from European Parliament News, members of the parliament (MEPs) advocate a full and immediate EU-wide ban on ivory and rhinoceros horn trade.

MEPs call on EU leaders to engage with different social media platform operators, search engines and e-commerce platforms to increase checks to stop illegal internet trade in wildlife.

Throughout the investigation, the WJC tallied products representing up to 907 dead elephants, 579 rhinos, and 225 dead tigers. 

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