Meta, the company formerly known as Facebook, privately announced on Monday that users can use its platforms to solicit human smugglers, a decision that goes against demands by anti-human trafficking groups that urged the tech giant to crack down on the practice.
In an internal announcement of Meta's "human smuggling policy" obtained by the Free Beacon, the company concluded that a crackdown on human smuggling solicitations would hamper the ability for people to use the platform "to seek safety or exercise their human rights." The company said it will maintain its current policy, which prohibits users from offering human smuggling but allows them to solicit smuggling services.
Meta said it reached its policy decision after five months of deliberation that sought out "global perspectives and a broad range of expertise." No specific organizations or groups are named, although Meta said they included "NGOs working with migrants" and "former border enforcement officials." Ultimately, more stakeholders advised the company to allow the solicitations, it said.
"We observed that a slight majority of stakeholders favored allowing solicitations of smuggling services for reasons associated with asylum seekers," the memo reads. "We decided that this was indeed the best option since the risks could be mitigated by sending resources, whereas the risks of removing such content could not be mitigated."
In order to "mitigate the risks" from allowing migrants to seek smugglers on its platforms, Meta said it "proposed interventions such as sending resources to users soliciting smuggling services." It did not elaborate on what those resources may be or whether they would end up effectively discouraging human trafficking. The company said it would allow "sharing information related to illegal border crossing."
The commitment to the controversial policy demonstrates the tech company's willingness to bow to left-wing activists even if it means facilitating illegal activity. An April 2021 report from the Tech Transparency Project identified a surge in Facebook groups devoted to human smuggling. Meta's new policy comes as more migrants attempt to illegally cross into the United States than at any point in the country's history.
Meta spokesman Drew Pusateri confirmed the platform would continue to allow solicitations for human smuggling after its consultation with outside experts.
"We regularly engage with outside experts to help us craft policies that strike the right balance between supporting people fleeing violence and religious persecution while not allowing human smuggling to take place through our platforms," Pusateri said. "At this time, we have no policy changes to announce."
Republican lawmakers have criticized Meta's practice of tolerating human smuggling on its platforms. In May 2021, Rep. Kat Cammack (R., Fla.) wrote a letter to CEO Mark Zuckerberg sharing posts she found on Facebook from potential human smugglers.
"It is unacceptable for an American company to allow a criminal enterprise to use your platform to freely encourage and facilitate criminal activity," Cammack said in the letter.
In response, Meta maintained the platform prohibits "content that either offers or assists with human smuggling" and said it deleted the content highlighted by Cammack.
Meta acknowledges in the memo that its decision comes with "tradeoffs." Allowing the solicitation of smuggling services "can make it easier for bad actors to identify and connect with vulnerable people." It also added that "law enforcement and government bodies … raised concerns that permitting this type of content on our platforms facilitates illegal activity and puts migrants at serious risk of exploitation or death."
Both Republicans and Democrats, including President Joe Biden, have condemned human smuggling operations that bring migrants into the country across the southern border. In July 2021, the White House announced a new "Human Smuggling and Trafficking Task Force" to "disrupt and prevent migrant smuggling and human trafficking operations."
Migrants who enlist the assistance of human traffickers to come across the southern border are often subjected to sexual assault or other forms of violence. A May 2017 report from Doctors Without Borders found 31.4 percent of female migrants who traveled through Mexico into the United States had been sexually abused.
"Migrants and refugees are preyed upon by criminal organizations, sometimes with the tacit approval or complicity of national authorities, and subjected to violence and other abuses—abduction, theft, extortion, torture, and rape—that can leave them injured and traumatized," the report reads.