On Wednesday, the leaders of social media companies were called on by Governor Ducey “to step up and take action to protect youth from cartel recruiting messages luring them into transnational human smuggling activity.”
Ducey made the request that the “companies to do a better job at monitoring their platforms and preventing them from being exploited by cartels in a letter to the leaders of Twitter, Facebook (Meta), Snap, and Tik Tok.
The governor wrote:
It’s no secret that our southern border is a mess. As a result of misguided policies and a lack of action by the federal government, a humanitarian crisis and public safety crisis has developed. Last month, an average of 7,800 migrants were apprehended at the Southwest Border each day. Fentanyl is pouring across the border and filling Arizona communities’ bloodstreams. Fentanyl overdoses have replaced car accidents as the leading cause of death for people 19 and younger in Pima County. And in 2021, when overdose deaths hit a record high, fentanyl was involved in more than 77% of adolescent overdose deaths. Human trafficking and drug trafficking is rampant – with cartels preying on those seeking refuge for a better life, and facilitating the flow of drugs into American communities. And – these criminals are using your companies’ social media platforms to make it happen.
Law enforcement at the state, local, and federal levels have seen social media recruiting by the cartels and traffickers increase since 2019, and skyrocket during 2021 and 20221• Our law enforcement authorities have tracked countless social media posts and messages which glamorize the money and lifestyle attainable by smuggling. Messages are exchanged between the account operator who posted the content and the interested viewers who engage with the content. Apprehended smugglers share how they get recruited through enticing social media content in interviews with authorities. These are also visible to the public viewer. Offers of $1,500 – $2,000 are being made for young people to travel from Phoenix to the border to assist in human trafficking.
The state has directed a great deal of resources towards this problem – declaring an emergency, deploying the national guard, increasing police interdiction and partnering with other states to help with sharing of information. But we need your help.
Kids are being lured with the promise of quick cash to aid the cartels in their smuggling operations, break traffic laws to evade police, endanger themselves, passengers, and innocent occupants of other cars and ultimately jeopardize their future all because they responded to an ad on social media. Your companies have established reporting mechanisms for criminal behavior, but we need stronger action to prevent this activity that is drawing our young people into a life of crime. Inaction only enables cartels to victimize countless youth and families. This crisis presents a real opportunity for you and your companies to take action and make a difference.
Just as your companies work to protect youth from obscenity and violence on your social media platforms, it’s time to protect them from criminal solicitation as well. In screening these ads, your companies can increase the safety of our communities while also protecting these kids from enticement into activity that will ultimately result in their involvement with the judicial system and all the consequences that come with that.
I urge you to stop letting your social media platform be used as a tool for criminal activity, and I welcome your partnership to address this issue. It’s time for the entire social media industry to put a stop to this activity and prevent the exploitation of our youth.
At the end of April, Governor Ducey signed legislation sponsored by Rep. Leo Biasiucci, aimed at cracking down on human smuggling.
“I applaud Governor Ducey for reaching out to social media companies to stop this criminal activity,” said Pinal County Sheriff Lamb. “Most Americans do not realize how blatantly the cartels are utilizing social media platforms to recruit young Americans to participate in dangerous drug and human smuggling. Cracking down on cartel operations is a team effort. We’re all Americans – we need to band together to stop transnational criminal organizations at every turn.”