You may be surprised to learn that you can sell land on Facebook Marketplace. No? I didn’t know either. Did you know that on Marketplace, people were trying to sell land in the Amazon rainforest?
I didn’t know either! Because selling land in ecological conservation areas is usually illegal and can have negative consequences for the flora, fauna, and people who live there, Facebook announced on Friday that it will change its commerce policies to explicitly prohibit the sale of protected land on Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp.
Following a BBC investigation into Facebook’s Marketplace in February, it was discovered that people were illegally selling enormous parcels of land in the Brazilian Amazon jungle via Facebook’s Craigslist competitor.
The BBC discovered that the plots were routinely sold without a legal land title specifying ownership, owing to Amazon deforestation caused by the Brazilian cattle business.
Because Facebook’s “commerce principles require buyers and sellers to comply with laws and regulations,” the firm told the BBC in February that it didn’t want to prohibit the illicit sale of land in the Amazon on its own.
After several months (and a slew of scandals), Facebook has taken a firmer position. Facebook’s new policy states, “Listings may not encourage the purchasing or sale of animals or animal products, or land in ecological protection areas.” The company also intends to compare listings to a database of protected land in order to identify anyone who violates its policies.
Even if it’s delayed, the shift is eventually beneficial. It’s only the time that’s peculiar. Facebook has had to cope with stolen research, a whistleblower aggressively calling out the company’s alleged hypocrisy, and a significant global outage in the previous few weeks. Stopping the sale of the Amazon rainforest is just the odd cherry on top of Facebook’s dreadful multi-week sundae.