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Facebook admits users can share information on illegal immigration and being smuggled

Facebook has admitted that users can share information about how to enter countries illegally and about people smuggled on its social media platforms.

The admission comes as Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich urged the Department of Justice and US Attorney General Merrick Garland to investigate the social media giant over its 'facilitation' of illegal migration into the United States.

In late June, Brnovich sent a letter to Facebook's CEO Mark Zuckerberg voicing his concern over reports that people smugglers and drug cartels were using Facebook to 'advertise their services to assist migrants on their dangerous journey and unlawful entry into the United States.'

In a response to the letter, dated more than a month later, Facebook vice president of state public policy William Castleberry admitted to allowing such content.

While the platform does not allow 'sharing content that offers to provide or facilitate human smuggling,' Castleberry said it does 'allow people to share information about how to enter a country illegally or request information about how to be smuggled.' 

Castleberry continued, saying that 'after consulting with human rights experts, we developed this policy to ensure we were prohibiting content relating to the business of human smuggling but not interfering with people's ability to exercise their right to seek asylum.'

'Allowing people to seek and share information related to smuggling can also help minimize the likelihood of them being exploited by human traffickers,' he added. 

Facebook has admitted that users can share information about how to enter countries illegally and about people smuggled on its social media platforms

In reaction to Facebook's reply, Brnovich wrote to Garland with Facebook's letter attached, calling on the DoJ to investigate the company over its 'facilitation of human smuggling at it's southern border and stop its active encouragement and facilitation of illegal entry.'  

'Facebook's policy of allowing posts promoting human smuggling and illegal entry into the United States to regularly reach its billions of users seriously undermines the rule of law,' Brnovich wrote. 

'The company is a direct facilitator, and thus exacerbates, the catastrophe occurring at Arizona's southern border.' 

Brnovich also drew attention to the fact that 'Facebook's letter does not address the heinous issue of sex trafficking, and actually seems to conflate it with illegal entry,' which he says 'are separate crimes that both take a devastating toll on the victims and our communities.'

In April, the Tech Transparency Project said it had first identified 50 pages and private groups on Facebook advertising human smuggling and provided their names to the company after it had asked for them

While some of the pages were deactivated, the group identified a further 40 Facebook pages and 17 Facebook groups that were still openly selling illegal border crossings.

Facebook's admission comes as Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich (pictured last year, file photo) urged the Department of Justice to investigate the social media giant over its 'facilitation' of illegal migration into the United States

In its letter to Brnovich, Facebook touted its 'rigorous' ad review process, which is done through automation but is supported by human reviewers to process re-review requests. The company added it was 'continuously assessing ways to increase automation.'

Facebook also explained how it will work with law enforcement and report criminal activity to agencies 'when we have a good faith belief that there is an imminent risk of harm.' 

But Brnovich told Garland in his letter that Facebook did not outline a method of distinguishing between authorized or unauthorized posts, and called its enforcement mechanism a 'paper tiger'.

'It is the federal government's duty to enforce its immigration and criminal laws, and specifically, the Department of Justice's responsibility to investigate and prosecute these matters,' he wrote.

'Therefore our office requests that your Department investigate Facebook's facilitation of human smuggling at Arizona's southern border and stop its active encouragement and facilitation of illegal entry.' 

Speaking to FOX Business on Tuesday, Brnovich criticised the Biden administration and Garland for a perceived lack of action over the issue. 

Facebook vice president of state public policy William Castleberry admitted to allowing such content, saying that while the platform does not allow 'sharing content that offers to provide or facilitate human smuggling,' it does 'allow people to share information about how to enter a country illegally or request information about how to be smuggled'. Pictured: Migrants cross a river from Mexico tot the United States, September 22, 2021

In reaction to Facebook's reply, Brnovich wrote to Attorney General Merrick Garland (pictured in Mexico on October 8) with Facebook's letter attached, calling on the DoJ to investigate the company over its 'facilitation of human smuggling

'Instead of trying to intimate parents at local school board meetings for exercising their First Amendment rights, where the heck is the Biden administration and Merrick Garland when it comes to actually enforcing laws where they have the primary jurisdiction? And that includes human smuggling,' he said.

'So shame on Facebook, shame on the Facebook Board of Directors, shame on corporate America that's so interested in being woke and yet they're basically destroying the fabric of this country and undermining the rule of law.' 

The firm's original, flagship social media site and app - Facebook - is expected to keep its moniker, but Facebook Inc., the parent company which also owns Instagram and WhatsApp, will be given rebrand.

Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg plans to reveal the parent company's new name at its annual Connect conference on October 28, but it could be unveiled sooner, the Verge reported.

The name change would likely position Facebook's social media app as one of many products under a parent company, which will oversee products like Instagram, WhatsApp, Oculus and more. 

It will also help distance the firm's flagship social media brand from future bad publicity, with recent whistleblower testimony from former worker Frances Haugen adding to a list of damaging scandals to the reputations of Facebook and Instagram.

Facebook is planning to rebrand its parent company with a new name next week in a bid to distance itself from a series of embarrassing scandals 

Just yesterday, US officials announced Facebook Inc had agreed to pay pay up to $14.25 million to settle civil claims by the government that the company discriminated against American workers and violated federal recruitment rules. 

And today in the UK, the company was fined £50.5 million ($70 million) after failing to provide enough important information to the competition regulator investigating the firm's takeover of GIF sharing platform Giphy.

Britain's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) launched a probe into the acquisition in June last year, shortly after the deal was announced, over concerns about a 'substantial lessening of competition'.

Facebook responded to the fine, saying: 'We strongly disagree with the CMA's unfair decision to punish Facebook for a best effort compliance approach, which the CMA itself ultimately approved. We will review the CMA's decision and consider our options.'

Facebook said it does not comment on rumor or speculation over the touted name change, reminiscent of when Google abruptly renamed itself Alphabet in 2015, making Google a subsidiary and allowing it to become a technology conglomerate.