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Facebook Whistleblowers: Take Action

Several anonymous Facebook whistleblowers have exposed a shocking pattern of criminal activity on the platform. Facebook is aware of these widespread issues but has not taken real or meaningful steps to stop them.

The company has repeatedly assured the public and its shareholders that it can remove much of this content – but the whistleblowers have shown that this is not true. Instead, groups carrying out criminal activity on Facebook’s website have been aided and abetted by the company’s algorithms and auto-generated content. Facebook’s many assurances about its prompt removal of terror and hate propaganda and other criminal activities are highly misleading.

Congress must ensure that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) does its job. Permitting criminal activity on a company’s property will ultimately impact the value of the company stock, harming investors. The SEC cannot allow US investors to contribute to the extinction of numerous threatened species including elephants, rhinos, and tigers – and the DOJ cannot permit terrorist groups to use the platform to recruit new members.

Key Takeaways

  • Facebook allows for endangered species – dead or alive – and other wildlife products to be sold online.
  • Facebook is not only facilitating and profiting from wildlife trafficking, but it is also aware illicit activity takes place on its site.
  • Facebook is failing to disclose the risk of this abuse to its shareholders and is violating Securities and Exchange Commission regulations governing publicly traded companies.
  • Facebook permits the promotion of terrorist content, the dissemination of violent extremist propaganda, and the exploitation and glorification of real-world violence.
  • Extensive networking and promoting terrorism on Facebook allow terrorism and hate groups to recruit.
  • An AP report found that Facebook is generating its own terror and hate content, which is being “Liked” by individuals affiliated with terrorist organizations.
  • The sales of antiquities looted from places like Syria and Iraq, with millions of items sold and even “loot-to-order” requests, often benefit criminal and terrorist networks.

The Issues

1. Facebook is Misleading Shareholders

In 2018, Facebook launched a campaign claiming to “successfully crackdown” on the site used to promote terrorist activity. They attributed this success to using AI and human review teams, who can confidently say they can block 99% of terrorist content.

However, in 2019, a Facebook whistleblower working with the National Whistleblower Center claimed this was a huge lie. In a petition to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed in January 2019 and updated in April 2019, the anonymous Facebook whistleblower provides an analysis showing that during five months in late 2018, the percentage of profiles of those who identify themselves as Friends of selected terrorist groups removed by Facebook was less than 30%. Of the profiles of those Friends who displayed symbols of terrorist groups, Facebook removed just 38% during the study period.

This petition also alleges that Facebook is failing to remove this content and aiding and abetting new terror-based content with the platform’s algorithms and auto-generated content feature. These misleading statements about the company’s handling of terror and hate content violate its duties to disclose material information and risks to its shareholders.

Read the full petition here:
Facebook SEC Petition – 2019

2. Facebook Allows Ads for Wildlife Trafficking

Facebook allows advertisers to sell animals and animal products on the platform, including elephant ivory, rhinoceros horns, and tiger teeth. According to an anonymous Facebook whistleblower, Facebook is well aware of this and has shown no significant data that would prove that the content has been removed.

Recently, the DOJ has subpoenaed information about illegal wildlife trafficking occurring on Facebook and that they provided data in a raw format that is extremely difficult and costly to analyze. Our firm and other nonprofit partners are committed to ensuring that Facebook stops the stonewalling and provides meaningful cooperation to crucial DOJ investigations into wildlife trafficking on its website.

Furthermore, Facebook’s failure to take adequate steps to stop this illegal activity violates SEC rules, which explicitly state that publicly traded companies cannot profit from unlawful activity. By failing to disclose risks to investors, Facebook is putting its shareholders at serious financial risk.

The question is: will the SEC take the necessary action to achieve meaningful changes in Facebook’s blasé behavior?

3. Facebook Allows for the Selling and Smuggling of Ancient Antiquities

War-torn countries with rich cultural heritages, such as Syria and Iraq, have seen a surge in looting and smuggling. Looters and buyers connect on Facebook and coordinate their illegal transactions, and their profits finance terrorist activities.

Facebook’s Groups feature allows users to create and manage a small network of individuals with shared interests. This ability has led to the expansion of trafficking, where buyers and sellers meet in these groups discreetly, making their transactions.

Facebook is aware that the platform facilitates the sale of stolen antiquities, along with the other illegal activities mentioned above. And while it has increased its efforts to remove unlawful activity from its platform, there is still no significant data available about the company’s efforts to regulate this activity.

Most importantly, Facebook is a publicly-traded company. Under U.S. Securities laws, publicly-traded companies cannot profit from illegal activities. And by failing to disclose the activities like illegal sales on the platform to investors, Facebook is putting the company—that is, its shareholders—at financial risk.

Facebook Whistleblowers: Speak Up

If you’re an employee at Facebook and have more information about illegal activities, get in touch with one of our whistleblower attorneys for a confidential discussion. Thanks to the whistleblower protections in the Dodd-Frank amendments, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is now fully aware of Facebook’s deceptive practices and is well-positioned to act to protect shareholders and the public from continued deception.

What Can You Do? Take Action!

Urge the SEC to investigate and hold Facebook accountable. Only through a substantial civil or criminal penalty can the SEC ensure that Facebook’s deceptive practices end and enable shareholders and the public to bring pressure to bear on the company regarding its handling of wildlife trafficking and other illegal activities on the site.