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Drivers for human trafficking recruited on social media platforms

Rebecca Barnabi
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Federal and local law enforcement are reporting an uptick in transnational criminal organizations recruiting drivers for human smuggling operations via social media.

U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger of Virginia is confronting the CEOs of TikTok, Meta, Twitter and Snapchat about the situation.

A former federal law enforcement officer and CIA case officer, Spanberger encourages the CEOs in a letter to combat the use of their platforms for recruitment of drivers.

“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,” Spanberger’s letter states. “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.”

According to a press release, drivers to transport recently-arrived migrants are entering the U.S. without authorization. The Wall Street Journal reported 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.”

Drivers are offered thousands of dollars for a few hours of driving, and are sometime unaware that they are aiding in human smuggling.

Spanberger calls on the CEOs of Tiktok, Meta, Twitter and Snapchat to do more to prevent human smuggling recruitment on their platforms. She also requested a briefing with the companies to outline current efforts to remove content and cooperate with law enforcement.

“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,” Spanberger’s letter states.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.

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