Facebook faces Supreme Court probe over Amazon Rainforest ads

By Ellen Daniel

Facebook has found itself in legal hot waters again after ads for plots of land in the Amazon Rainforest that appeared on the platform, prompting an investigation by Brazil’s Federal Supreme Court.

Brazil’s tip court ordered the enquiry after the classified ads were listed in Facebook’s Marketplace. The ads, which can be easily found by Facebook users, were uncovered as part of an investigation by the BBC, which discovered that the land for sale included areas belonging to indigenous groups.

According to the BBC, Facebook is yet to remove the ads but said it was “ready to work with local authorities” on the issue.

The court urged the Brazilian government to “take the appropriate civil and criminal measures” to address the issue, with Brazilian Supreme Court Justice Luís Roberto Barroso extending a case brought to the court by the Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil to include an investigation into the ads.

In a statement, the Supreme Court said: “The decision is based on a documentary broadcast by BBC News last week, which denounced the use of Facebook for advertising and marketing land in the Amazon.”

Barroso called on the Attorney General’s Office and the Federal Police to investigate “indications of the attempted commercialisation of protected indigenous lands” including the sale of Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau Indigenous Land. He argued that the investigation should also cover other lands that are in a critical situation.

Deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest reached a 12-year high in 2020. Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro has been accused of having contributed to the matter as his perceived inaction on stopping illegal deforestation, as well as his support for agriculture and mining activities in the region.

Facebook has faced criticism on several occasions over ads on its platform. Last year, The Guardian revealed that knives could be purchased through Facebook Marketplace without any age verification, with the Wall Street Journal also discovering assault rifles for sale on the platform.


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