Facebook purges ads for illegal wildlife in SE Asia

Facebook has a ban on the sale of animals on its platform.

But that hasn't stopped Southeast Asia's illegal wildlife trade.

So, the social media giant went on a crackdown, closing groups and removing hundreds of adverts in recent weeks.

Amy Sawitta Lefevre is Facebook's policy communications manager for emerging markets.

"We also remove this type of content as soon as we become aware of it. We're very committed to working with wildlife and law enforcement authorities around the world to really tackle this problem of illegal wildlife trade."

In the five months to May 2020, a report seen by Reuters showed World Wildlife Fund researchers had counted more than 2,000 wild animals from 94 species for sale on Facebook from Myanmar alone.

The vast majority of posts - some 92 per cent - were offering live animals.

Jedsada Taweekan from the WWF explains why Facebook poses a problem in combating the illegal sale of wild animals.

"Facebook has a function for closed groups, like, somebody can set up a closed group and sell something and it's very safe for them too because they don't need to approve everybody to go to their site, they can selectively select, I mean who they can allow to go into their site."

Campaigners say the advent of zoonotic diseases like the novel coronavirus hasn't quashed demand from buyers.

A study by TRAFFIC published last month found almost 2,500 ivory items for sale across Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam on Facebook and Instagram, which is owned by Facebook.

TRAFFIC said 557 out of 600 posts, groups and profiles flagged to Facebook have since been removed.

The WWF said four Facebook accounts and seven groups, each with thousands of members, were removed in response to their research in Myanmar.