Tech Companies Working to Take Wildlife Trafficking Off the Internet Entirely

In a new report entitled “Offline and in the Wild released yesterday by the Coalition to End Wildlife Trafficking Online, the Coalition, convened by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), TRAFFIC and International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), reported removing or blocking over 3 million listings for endangered and threatened species and associated products from their online platforms to date. These listings, including sales of live tigers, reptiles, primates and birds for the exotic pet trade, as well as products derived from species like elephants, pangolins and marine turtles, are helping to shut down the cloud-based trade routes that cybercriminals rely on for exploiting wildlife.

Why This Matters:  According to the experts, wildlife traffickers take great advantage of the anonymity of the internet to exploit endangered wildlife.  It is possible to purchase trafficked products such as elephant ivory, pangolin scales, live tiger cubs, live birds, and reptiles, on your smartphone. But these tech companies are a critical part of the solution because their efforts to combat this problem are at a global scale — and their actions directly disrupt illegal wildlife trafficking. The Coalition includes some of the biggest and most powerful tech companies in the world — Alibaba, Google, eBay, Facebook, Instagram, Microsoft and more.  Great work by all — especially as we celebrate World Wildlife Day today, that there is so much that private businesses and individuals can do to help combat illegal wildlife trade.  Let’s do it!

Wildlife Trafficking on the “Dark Web”

“Criminal networks are taking advantage of internet platforms at the expense of the rarest species nature has to offer,” Crawford Allan, Senior Director for TRAFFIC at WWF said in a statement. “But the vastness of the internet presents a challenge for law enforcement to regulate. The online companies in our Coalition now have the smarts and tools to fight back against wildlife trafficking online, and can help ease the burden on law enforcement.”  At eBay alone in 2019, the company blocked or removed from their web site over 165,000 listings globally that are prohibited by the company’s policy on the sale of illegal animal and wildlife products.

The Coalition’s progress has resulted from strengthened wildlife policies, an increase in staff ability to detect potential illegal wildlife products and live wild animals, regular monitoring and data sharing from wildlife experts, reports sent in by volunteers through the Coalition’s Wildlife Cyber Spotter Program, enhanced algorithms—thanks to key search word monitoring and collation—and shared learning.  China’s largest online marketplace, Alibaba, is active in the coalition — “Wildlife crime is a widely recognized global problem which demands a global solution. The Coalition provides a platform for online technology companies to contribute to this solution together,” the Company said.

What You Can Do:  Don’t buy wildlife products online (we doubt you do!) and help the Coalition by reporting any suspicious wildlife listings online to companies to them here. Better yet, sign up for the Wildlife Cyber Spotter Program at https://www.endwildlifetraffickingonline.org/get-involved.

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