Facebook says it will ban sales of the Amazon rainforest after an investigation found plots of land were illegally sold on the platform

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Facebook says it will ban sales of the Amazon rainforest after an investigation found plots of land were illegally sold on the platform
Drew Angerer/Getty Images
  • A BBC investigation found parts of the Amazon rainforest were being sold on Facebook Marketplace.
  • Eight months later, Facebook will ban sales of land in ecological conservation areas on Marketplace.
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Facebook is changing its commerce policies to try to curb an illegal practice that was brought to light in a documentary eight months ago.

In February, the BBC investigation "Our World: Selling the Amazon" uncovered that people were illegally selling plots of Brazil's Amazon rainforest on Facebook Marketplace. Now, Facebook is "announcing measures to curb attempts to sell land in ecological conservation areas within the Amazon rainforest on Facebook Marketplace," the company said in a blog post on Friday.

Facebook's commerce policy on prohibited content -- specifically relating to land, animals, and animal products -- now bans listings of "land or real estate of any type in ecological conservation areas." The company says the change applies to its commerce products across Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp.

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"We will now review listings on Facebook Marketplace against an international organization's authoritative database of protected areas to identify listings that may violate this new policy," the company said in the blog post. "Protected areas are crucial for conserving habitats and ecosystems and are critical to tackling the global nature crisis. Based on specific criteria, Facebook will seek to identify and block new listings in such areas."

The BBC's investigation found that many of the plots being sold on Facebook Marketplace were part of protected areas, such as lands for indigenous communities, as well as national forests. The sales transpired as the Amazon rainforest continues to suffer massive deforestation, including, as the BBC reports, at the hands of those buying and selling its land online.

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Facebook's policy change comes at the end of a rough week for the company. On Monday, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger went dark for several hours. The massive outage abruptly severed lines of communication between families and friends around the world and brought business to a screeching halt for many online entrepreneurs. The next day, Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen testified before Congress that the company puts profits over safety through the use of controversial business practices that sow "more division, more harm, more lies, more threats, and more combat."

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