Huge chunks of the Amazon rainforest are being illegally sold on Facebook, according to a new BBC investigation. The land for sale includes national forests, land which is part of a protected area, or land reserved for Indigenous Peoples.
The Amazon is the most biodiverse place on Earth. It has faced years of deforestation – for logging, mining and particularly for industrial farming for meat and dairy. Huge areas of the Amazon and other large areas of land are cleared by fire to start cattle ranches and other farms, a practice actively encouraged by the Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro.
Now, enormous lots of Amazon rainforest are being invaded, cleared, and put up for sale on Facebook. Some of the plots listed via Facebook’s Marketplace service are as large as 1,000 football pitches. Sellers admit they don’t have a land title, making the sale illegal.
Facebook told the BBC that it would work with local authorities, but wouldn’t take independent action on its own to halt the trade.
The trouble is, the Brazilian government is unlikely to intervene. By passing the responsibility onto Brazilian authorities, Facebook is allowing the sale of stolen land to go on.
Facebook is making it easier to sell Amazon land stolen from Indigenous Peoples – putting their lives at risk
The Amazon rainforest helps regulate the climate and is home to millions of people – many of whom are Indigenous or traditional communities.
The BBC’s investigation found that Facebook Marketplace sellers were trying to sell off land within the Indigenous Uru Eu Wau Wau People’s reserve. At least five other Indigenous groups that live in voluntary isolation from our civilization live in the area, which is in Rondônia State – one of the most deforested part of the Amazon rainforest in Brazil. Many of the ads found for illegal plots are in the region.
‘We feel unsafe when we go to sleep. We fear someone will come and attack the village and attack us too,’ Bitate, an Indigenous community leader of the Uru Eu Wau Wau people, told the BBC.
Bitate says Facebook should take responsibility for what it’s doing. Their lives are under threat and Facebook has a duty to take responsibility and put a stop to this immediately.
Facebook is connecting illegal land grabbers to millions of potential buyers – and Brazil’s government isn’t cracking down on the crime
The Brazilian federal environment agency has the authority to monitor the Amazon, and fine and arrest loggers and farmers for breaking the law. But under Bolsonaro’s government, they’ve had their inspection budgets cut.
Thanks to these cuts, the former head of the agency has gone on record to say that through ‘Bolsonaro’s speeches since 2018, what [illegal invaders] understand on the ground is that environmental crime is now free of charge’.
In fact, environmental crime is not only free of charge, but extremely lucrative for land grabbers. One land grabber, Fabricio Guimarães, filmed secretly in the BBC’s investigation, was able to triple his initial asking price to $35,000 (£25,000), for forested land he had grabbed from Indigenous communities and burned to the ground.
Fabricio is not a farmer. He has a steady middle-class job in a city, and views the rainforest as an ‘investment opportunity’.
Fuelled by the cattle ranching industry, land grabbing is being made legal by the Brazilian government
Since President Bolsonaro came to power two years ago, Amazon destruction has been speeding up.
Land invaders have been lobbying politicians to scrap rainforest areas’ protected status once they have been illegally razed. They do this so they can buy it from the state, and gain legal ownership.
It’s worked: now, the Brazilian Congress aims to approve new legislation that will reward land grabbers and encourage more deforestation and invasions in protected lands.
For Indigenous Peoples like the Uru Eu Wau Wau, this is a death sentence. And Facebook, the world’s largest social media platform, is complicit.
Facebook needs to do better. Together we can make that happen
It doesn’t have to be this way. Facebook have the power to immediately ban and disable all sales of protected Amazon land on their platform. They also have the power to block and remove users involved in this criminal and harmful activity.
Many of us are users of Facebook. We have the power to challenge the platform to do better. If thousands of us voice our anger, we could get the bosses of Facebook to listen and take action. That starts with this petition. Will you join in, and make your voice heard?
Indigenous Peoples often have a close connection with their environment – and essential knowledge of how to prevent biodiversity loss and the worst effects of climate change. Despite this, Indigenous Peoples face violence and discrimination worldwide.
Want to take part in Greenpeace’s peaceful direct actions and creative protests? It’s a big decision to volunteer, but anyone can stand up for change.
Through high-tech forest monitoring and persistent legal action against invasions, the Karipuna Indigenous People are beginning to win the fight against deforestation in their Amazon lands. Here’s their remarkable story.
Facebook-Meta Earns the ‘Worst Company of 2021’ Title in This Survey
Facebook parent Meta has been named the Worst Company of the Year (2021) by Yahoo Finance respondents. According to the publication, an “open-ended” survey was published on Yahoo Finance on December 4 and 5, where 1,541 respondents participated. Facebook received 8 percent of the write-in vote, but respondents were seemingly mad about the Robinhood trading app as well. Electric truck startup Nikola, which was named last year’s worst company by the same publication also faced respondents ire.
Yahoo Finance even highlights, “At the same time, some critics, including conservatives, say Facebook over-policed the platform’s speech and stifled their voices.” Critics also blame Facebook and other social media platforms for not curbing hate speech that led to Capitol Building riots.
However, around 30 percent of Yahoo Finance readers said that Facebook or Meta could redeem itself. One respondent suggested that the company could issue a formal apology for negligence and donate a sizable amount of its profits to a foundation to help reverse its harm.
On the other hand, respondents chose Microsoft as the Company of the Year (2021). The Satya Nadella-led company touched the trillion-mark this year and introduced notable upgrades. The most notable is the Windows 11 OS update that succeeds Windows 10.
Facebook pays 1.7 Cr fine to Russia after failing to delete content Moscow deems illegal
In the latest legal tussle with Russia over controversial social media regulation laws, Facebook paid 17 million roubles (Rs 1.7 Crore) for failing to remove content deemed illegal by Moscow. With a threat of potential larger fines looming, Facebook parent company Meta, owned by Mark Zuckerberg, is scheduled to face court next week over repeated violations of Russian legislation on content, Interfax News Agency reported. As per the latest updates, the social media giant could be fined a percentage of its annual revenue.
In October, Moscow sent state bailiffs to enforce the collection of 17 million roubles. Meanwhile, as per Interfax report citing a federal bailiffs’ database, on Sunday, there were more enforcement proceedings against the company. Apart from the popular social media app, Telegram has also paid 15 million roubles in fines for failing to comply with the Russian social media legislations that came into force in 2016.
Facebook pays $53k to Russia for refusing controversial social media laws
It is pertinent to mention that Facebook has locked horns with Moscow earlier in November, resulting in it paying 4 million roubles ($53,000) over its refusal to adhere to Russian data localisation laws, the Moscow Times reported. The Moscow court on November 25 had said that Facebook paid the fine levied in February, following which all proceedings against the US-based social media giant. The payment comes against the litigation filed against the company in 2018, alongside Twitter. The tech companies were also forced to pay an additional 3000 rubles ($40) for failing to comply with user data sharing rules as per the law. The Russian authorities have also previously blocked LinkedIn, owned by Microsoft, for failing to abide by the laws.
Russian social media laws
As per Moscow Times, under the Russian social media regulation laws, all foreign technology companies are required to store data related to Russian customers and users on servers located in Russia. Additionally, the Russian tech companies will also have to share encryption data with the federal authorities as well as record user calls, messages and civil society group conversation records. The apparatus is said to be a severe breach of privacy rights and unfettered back-door access to personal data that could be used to harass Kremlin critics.
Facebook Messenger Is Launching a Split Payments Feature for Users to Quickly Share Expenses
Meta has announced the arrival of a new Split Payments feature in Facebook Messenger. This feature, as the name suggests, will let you calculate and split expenses with others right from Facebook Messenger. This feature essentially looks to bring an easier method to share the cost of bills and expenses — for example, splitting a dinner bill with friends. Using this new Split Payment feature, Facebook Messenger users will be able to split bills evenly or modify the contribution for each individual, including their own.
The company took to its blog post to announce the new Split Payment feature in Facebook Messenger. 9to5Mac reports that this new bill splitting feature is still in beta and will be exclusive to US users at first. The rollout will begin early next week. As mentioned, it will help users share the cost of bills, expenses, and payments. This feature is especially useful for those who share an apartment and need to split the monthly rent and other expenses with their mates. It could also come handy at a group dinner with many people.
With Split Payments, users can add the number of people the expense needs to be divided with and, by default, the amount entered will be divided in equal parts. A user can also modify each person’s contribution including their own. To use Split Payments, click the Get Started button in a group chat or the Payments Hub in Messenger. Users can modify the contribution in the Split Payments option and send a notification to all the users who need to make payments. After entering a personalised message and confirming your Facebook Pay details, the request will be sent and viewable in the group chat thread.
Once someone has made the payment, you can mark their transaction as ‘completed’. The Split Payment feature will automatically take into account your share as well and calculate the amount owed accordingly.
Tasneem Akolawala is a Senior Reporter for Gadgets 360. Her reporting expertise encompasses smartphones, wearables, apps, social media, and the overall tech industry. She reports out of Mumbai, and also writes about the ups and downs in the Indian telecom sector. Tasneem can be reached on Twitter at @MuteRiot, and leads, tips, and releases can be sent to email@example.com.