February 15, 2023

Cortez Masto Calls on Meta to Confront Drug Trafficking, Human Smuggling on Platforms

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) joined Senators Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), in sounding the alarm on Meta’s failure to address malicious actors’ exploitation of its platforms – including Facebook and WhatsApp – to facilitate drug trafficking and human smuggling in the Western Hemisphere. 

In a letter to Meta Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, the senators cited numerous investigations’ findings regarding the company’s entirely inadequate content moderation and enforcement mechanisms, particularly for Spanish-language content, and underscored the need for Meta to take urgent action to address these harmful shortcomings.

“Despite Facebook’s acknowledgment that human smuggling and drug trafficking activities violate its community standards …. [p]revious reporting has found that drug cartels in Latin America and the Caribbean widely use Meta’s platforms to traffic drugs, recruit members and smugglers, extort victims, and publish hit lists,” the senators wrote. “Meta has an obligation to address these challenges …. We urge you to immediately dedicate renewed attention and resources to this crisis, and we request that you provide us with additional information regarding what steps Meta is prepared to take to prevent human smugglers and drug traffickers from utilizing its platform and address the significant real-world harms these activities have caused.”

In addition to highlighting these activities’ damaging impact on vulnerable communities across Latin America and the Caribbean, the senators also emphasized that Meta’s failure to dedicate sufficient resources to address human smuggling, disinformation, and drug trafficking on its platforms poses a direct threat to U.S. interests.

“The Drug Enforcement Agency’s announcement in December 2021 that Mexican drug cartels are using Meta’s platforms to ‘flood our country with fentanyl’ underscores the need for urgent action,” the senators added, asserting that the open advertisement of human smuggling and drug trafficking services contributes to transnational crime in the region and challenges at the United States’ Southwestern border. “We urge you to take our concerns seriously and …. welcome your continued engagement in order to ensure that moving forward Meta’s platforms reinforce, rather than undermine, human rights and good governance worldwide.”

A full copy of the letter can be found here.

As Nevada’s Attorney General, Senator Cortez Masto passed legislation in Nevada to crack down on drug manufacturing and trafficking, and has continued efforts in the Senate to provide law enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with the resources they need to keep communities safe. She also passed the bipartisan FIND Trafficking Act to study how virtual currencies and online marketplaces are used to facilitate sex and drug trafficking and make recommendations on how to fight, detect and deter these illegal activities.