Large parcels of land in the Amazon rainforest are being sold illegally on Facebook. According to a recent investigation carried out by the BBC, Facebook Marketplace ads are being used to sell land in Brazil’s portion of the Amazon Rainforest to global buyers.

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Facebook has distanced itself from the illegal trade, saying, “We are ready to work with local authorities.” The company also added, “Our commerce policies require buyers and sellers to comply with laws and regulations.”

Related: Amazon deforestation reaches a 12-year record

Ivaneide Bandeira, head of environmental NGO Kanindé, said that those selling the land “feel very empowered to the point that they are not ashamed of going on Facebook to make illegal land deals.”

Many of the people selling the land have admitted they don’t possess the land titles, which are the official documents that prove land ownership in Brazil. “There’s no risk of an inspection by state agents here,” said Fabricio Guimarães, one land seller, told BBC.

Some of the land being advertised for sale belongs to Indigenous communities. One community leader, Bitaté Uru Eu Wau Wau, has condemned the Facebook Marketplace ads, urging the company to take action. “This is a lack of respect,” he said. “I don’t know these people. I think their objective is to deforest the Indigenous land, to deforest what is standing. To deforest our lives, you could say.”

While local authorities are slow to act, Facebook has the capacity to take action. All ads go through an approval process before going live. Interestingly, some of the classifieds posted also include coordinates. But the company says the task of deciding which sales are illegal would be too much for it to handle and that authorities need to step in.

In recent years, the Brazilian government has said that it does not support deforestation, but its actions say otherwise.

“President Jair Bolsonaro’s government has always made it clear that his is a zero-tolerance government for any crime, including environmental ones.” Brazil’s Minister of the Environment Ricardo Salles said.

While the government says it is taking action, the budgetary allocation to Ibama, the body mandated with inspection of the rainforest, has been cut by 40%.


Image via Mario Dimas N Silva