April 12, 2018

Whistleblower Alleges Facebook Aided Wildlife Trafficking

By the C|C Whistleblower Lawyer Team

According to a whistleblower, Facebook profited from the trafficking of endangered species and failed to stop criminal activity linking it to the illegal wildlife trade that allegedly took place on its platform. Facebook was displaying ads tied to unnamed “American corporations” on pages linked to traffickers known to trade in elephant ivory, rhino horn, bear claws, and tiger teeth.

The allegations, filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, say that Facebook failed to implement internal controls to stop criminal activity from overseas traders from occurring on the social network. The whistleblower, who acted as an “undercover informant,” looked into wildlife trafficking on many platforms, including Amazon, eBay, Facebook, Instagram, and Yahoo, but only found problematic activity on Facebook and Instagram. On Facebook, the whistleblower claims to have uncovered over a dozen secretive networks engaging in the practice.

The filing also alleges that Facebook could have used the data collected on its platform to alert authorities to the wildlife trafficking and put in the position to stage the biggest wildlife law enforcement operation ever.

Facebook hasn’t disclosed that some of its revenue may be tied to illegal trafficking in wildlife in regulatory filings that are supposed to outline various risks and other threats that could crimp its profits or stock price. Trafficking investigators say they have seen no drop off in the illegal products offered for sale on Facebook after prior public pledges by the company to crack down. They are calling on the SEC  to force Facebook to immediately freeze accounts being used by illegal traffickers and cooperate with international law enforcement to identify the individuals involved for prosecution.

The SEC as alerted to the activity in August of 2017. The SEC has not taken any public action with regard to the allegations. If the SEC collects over $1 million in enforcement actions resulting from the whistleblower’s tip, the whistleblower stands to receive a reward of 10-30% of what’s collected.

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