In a fitting end to Facebook’s pretty, um, “eventful” week, the company owned up to another little whoopsie on Friday morning: Apparently, people have been using Marketplace tool to sell off chunks of the Amazon rainforest, which is under heavy threat from cattle grazing, illegal logging, and mining. Facebook would like them to stop, please.
“Today, we are announcing measures to curb attempts to sell land in ecological conservation areas within the Amazon rainforest on Facebook Marketplace,” the company wrote in a Friday blog post. “We are updating our commerce policies to explicitly prohibit the buying or selling of land of any type in ecological conservation areas on our commerce products across Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp.”
In order to properly vet people trying to sell literal tracts of endangered rainforest, Facebook said it will now “review listings” before they crop up on Marketplace. The company said it would then compare them against an unnamed international organization’s “authoritative database” of protected areas in order to identify listings that contain parts of areas that are “crucial for conserving habitats and ecosystems and are critical to tackling the global nature crisis.” Those listing will not be approved, which seems like a good idea given the current state of the rainforest.
This is a rare moment where Facebook is indeed, right on the money. Protected areas are an important part of the conservation puzzle. They suck carbon emissions from the air, maintain biodiversity at a time when it is under assault around the globe. And—let’s be honest here—are just really, really pretty to look at.
These plots of land can also be sold for a pretty penny, as the BBC found out earlier this year when it uncovered dozens of ads for plots of Amazon rainforest land being sold through Facebook’s Marketplace. As the BBC noted at the time, some of the plots being sold were as long as “1,000 football pitches” (fields). When the BBC initially asked the company what it would do to um, halt the clearly unethical sales happening on its platform, the company pretty much shrugged, saying it was “ready to work with local authorities.” But Facebook said wouldn’t take any independent action unless these sellers were actively breaking local laws.
Eight months later, it looks like the company changed its tune. Stopping the sales is “the first [step] Facebook is taking to address this issue,” and the company noted that it will “continue working to prevent people from circumventing our enforcement.”
Facebook’s new stance on protected land sales is just another ban added to the growing list of things being sold through its platform that the company is trying (and sometimes failing) to stomp out. To date, that includes drug sales (which still happen) gun sales (which still happen), human sales (which still happen), and now, giant plots of protected land. Let’s hope the company figures it out this time around!