Plots of protected land in the Amazon rainforest are being marketed in adverts on Facebook’s Marketplace service, an investigation has found, amid record levels of deforestation.
Areas of land as large as 1,000 football pitches have been marked as for sale by third party merchants on the Facebook online store.
A report by BBC Brazil found any Facebook user can find plots of land for sale on the social network by typing in words such as “native jungle” or “timber” in Portuguese into Facebook’s search tool, and setting the Amazon as their location. Some of the listings featured satellite imagery and GPS coordinates.
The BBC arranged meetings with four sellers who were marketing their activities over Facebook. Some of the plots of land included areas reserved for indigenous populations. Many of the adverts admitted they did not have the rights to the land, but had illegally cleared it anyway, the BBC said.
A Facebook spokesperson said: “Our commerce policies require buyers and sellers to comply with laws and regulations when buying and selling on Marketplace. We stand ready to work with local authorities on any of the issues raised in the BBC’s reporting.”
It is understood, however, the tech giant does not proactively remove listings selling plots of land, and instead complies with court orders if such a listing is deemed illegal.
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In the Amazon rainforest, reporters showed screenshots of adverts used to sell local land to community leader Bitaté Uru Eu Wau Wau.
“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.” The local leader also urged Facebook to take action against the sales.
Deforestation of the Amazon has reached record levels, with many land grabbers believing they are not at risk of prosecution.
Land is often at risk of being cleared for cattle farming and mining.
Destruction has soared since President Jair Bolsonaro weakened environmental protections. Over 12 months last year, an area seven times the size of London was cleared. Deforestation rose 9.5pc in 2020, according to official data, compared to the previous year.
The President previously sent in the military in response to international pressure to slow the rate of fires and land clearance.
The Amazon is the world’s largest rainforest and is viewed as crucial in stopping climate change due to the large amounts of carbon dioxide its lush forest absorbs.
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