Spanberger Urges TikTok, Meta, Twitter, Snapchat CEOs to Combat Human Smuggling Operations on Their Platforms

Federal and Local Law Enforcement Report an Uptick In Transnational Criminal Organizations Using Social Media Platforms to Recruit Drivers for Human Smuggling Operations

HENRICO, V.A. — As first reported by Politico, U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger — a former federal law enforcement officer and CIA case officer — today urged the CEOs of TikTok, Meta, Twitter, and Snapchat to combat the use of their platforms to recruit drivers to help with human smuggling operations.

According to federal and local law enforcement, there has been an uptick in transnational criminal organizations (TCOs) using social media platforms to recruit drivers to transport recently-arrived migrants who entered the United States without authorization throughout the country. In recent reporting from the Wall Street Journal, one Border Patrol agent said “About 90% of the…drivers that we are seeing, in post-arrest interviews, are admitting that they were recruited through social media.” These social media posts solicit drivers and offer thousands of dollars for only a few hours of driving, with drivers sometimes unaware that they are aiding a migrant-smuggling operation.

In letters to the CEOs of TikTok, Meta, Twitter, and Snapchat, Spanberger outlined the issues related to cartels recruiting Americans on social media and called on these technology companies to do more to prevent human smuggling recruitment from taking place on their platforms. Additionally, the Congresswoman requested a briefing from the companies outlining their current efforts to remove content and cooperate with law enforcement related to TCOs recruiting Americans to assist in human smuggling and other criminal activities.

“I write deeply concerned about recent reporting from law enforcement officials on an uptick of smugglers using social media to recruit drivers for migrant-smuggling operations,” wrote Spanberger. “Human smugglers, typically associated with other TCOs, often take advantage of migrants in desperate situations and profit off influxes in migration. Additionally, TCOs use a portion of smuggling profits to fuel their other criminal enterprises, such as drug trafficking.”

Spanberger continued, “Unfortunately, TCOs are active across the United States and have used social media platforms for recruitment for several years. In Virginia, MS-13 has used social media to recruit minors to commit crimes. Federal and local law enforcement work tirelessly to disrupt these networks of human smugglers and TCOs, and social media platforms must be vigilant and active in removing this content.”

Click here to read Spanberger’s letter, and the full letter text is below.

Dear [CEO of TikTok, Meta, Twitter, or Snapchat]

I write deeply concerned about recent reporting from law enforcement officials on an uptick of smugglers using social media to recruit drivers for migrant-smuggling operations. United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials and other law enforcement officers work around the clock to disrupt human and drug smuggling networks. I strongly urge social media platforms, such as [social media platform], to step up their efforts to remove content from cartels aimed at recruiting Americans to help with human smuggling and other criminal activities.

CBP reported 2.3 million migrant apprehensions at the southern border in the last year, surpassing the previous year’s record. Human smugglers, typically associated with other transnational criminal organizations (TCOs), often take advantage of migrants in desperate situations and profit off influxes in migration. Additionally, TCOs use a portion of smuggling profits to fuel their other criminal enterprises, such as drug trafficking. After human smugglers bring migrants across the border, they have increasingly turned to social media platforms to recruit drivers to transport migrants throughout the U.S. According to one Border Patrol agent, about 90 percent of drivers admitted in post-arrest interviews that they were recruited through social media.

These posts are often vague, soliciting drivers and promising thousands of dollars for just a few hours of driving, and will even include the vehicle and gas money. Drivers sometimes are unaware that the posters are cartels and human smugglers and that they are aiding a migrant-smuggling operation. Unfortunately, TCOs are active across the United States and have used social media platforms for recruitment for several years. In Virginia, MS-13 has used social media to recruit minors to commit crimes. Federal and local law enforcement work tirelessly to disrupt these networks of human smugglers and TCOs, and social media platforms must be vigilant and active in removing this content.

As such, I request a briefing on [social media platform’s] current efforts to remove content and cooperate with law enforcement related to TCOs and human smugglers recruiting Americans to assist in human smuggling and other criminal activities. Additionally, I request this briefing include information on how [social media platform] plans to address this content in the future and work with law enforcement to address this growing issue.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

— 

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