Facebook took 8 months to react to the sale of plots of Amazon rainforest on its marketplace

Finally, Facebook decides to take measures to ban the illegal sale of plots of protected land in Brazil through its classifieds platform. It has been eight months since the site was accused of doing nothing.

A satellite view of the indigenous reserve of Parakana, Brazil, where deforestation is hitting.  © Getty Images

A satellite view of the indigenous reserve of Parakana, Brazil, where deforestation is hitting. © Getty Images

In February 2021, the BBC published a survey showing how large plots of Amazon rainforest in Brazil were found for sale on Facebook’s marketplace. The only response from Facebook at the time: “Our trade policies require that buyers and sellers comply with laws and regulations.” The Californian company nevertheless said it was ready to “work with local authorities” while announcing that it does not intend to take restrictive measures on its own initiative.

Finally, eight months later, Facebook decided to act. In a press release published on October 8, 2021, the company said it had changed the terms of its commercial policies in order to explicitly prohibit the sale of protected land on all of its platforms (Facebook but also Instagram and WhatsApp). Thus, we should no longer find ads for the sale of plots of the Amazon rainforest on the Facebook marketplace.

Destroyed ecosystems and threatened indigenous communities

Indigenous communities directly affected by these illegal land sales (without official land titles) are calling on classifieds sites to do more to prevent these transactions. In Brazil, the government turns a blind eye to this business which leads to an acceleration of deforestation, most often to install cereal crops intended for cattle breeding or for grazing. As associations that fight against the phenomenon explain, people who trade in these lands do not feel threatened by the authorities and no longer even fear going to sell them in full view on Facebook.

This is all illegal, but the cattle industry is so powerful in this region that it rules. This explains why land inside indigenous reserves can be put up for sale, leaving communities that live without contact with the outside world to have to defend themselves against what they call the “invaders”. In order to drive them from their lands, forest fires are sometimes deliberately started by those who claim to have the right to exploit them, destroying their lives, complex thousand-year-old ecosystems and one of the Earth’s lungs.

If no one is going to complain to see Facebook take a stand on this subject and respond favorably to associations and local populations defending their land, it is a shame that the company has taken so long to react. Especially since this decision comes at a time when it is going through a very delicate period in terms of the media, after the revelations of whistleblower Frances Haugen. From there to saying that Facebook seeks in this way to generate more positive publications to restore its image and save its notoriety, there is only one step that some will certainly not hesitate to take.

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