Terror via Facebook and WhatsApp: this is how drug traffickers take advantage of social networks

Digital campaigns have been used by Mexican cartels to recruit members (Photo: Infobae México)

The organized crime has infested social media, a space in the eyes of the world that has allowed them to spread messages, sell illegal products or show their weapons power to Mexicans and their rivals.

On a constant basis, groups such as the Jalisco Nueva Generación Cartel (CJNG), Los Caballeros Templarios, Los Zetas, among others, have taken over the digital world for their own campaigns. Platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp or Messenger have ended up becoming “ground zero for organized crime syndicates to market their illegal assets and move money., using the same ease of connectivity that normal users enjoy ”, highlighted the Alliance to Combat Online Crime (ACCO, for its acronym in English) in a report.

At the beginning of April, for example, it became known a video of the CJNG in Las Aguililla. Michoacan, where, in broad daylight, members of the criminal group moved with weapons and monster trucks, about a week after a strong massacre in the place

The ACCO noted that the Mexican cartels’ network strategies “are not so different” from those developed by organizations such as ISIS. (Photo: Screenshot / Facebook INFO RED MX)

The ACCO report, entitled “The ESG Spotlight: Organized Crime and Terror on Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger,” notes that organized crime also would use digital platforms to recruit members and raise funds.

In another report on the dark side of social networks, they explained that the use of these platforms implies benefits for criminal organizations, the ACCO pointed out that the Mexican cartels’ network strategies “are not so different” from those developed by organizations such as ISIS.

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Among all the data collected by the report, it was found that 10% of the content was about posts and photos of guns, piles of money and drugs with which organizations “show their capabilities and their success in the traffic industry, demonstrating strength and power to their rivals.” While 9% are threats between the Knights Templar, Los Zetas, the Jalisco Nueva Generación Cartel and self-defense groups.

From the academic field, “the perception of social networks as a communication tool began with a positive vision as an ungoverned space that provides an outlet for exposure ”. However, this exit would be used by the Mexican cartels, according to the organization, as a way of turn social media into weapons, because the internet offers the opportunity to increase the force of intimidation, harassment and extortion of the victims.

Organized crime groups occupy social networks to spread messages (Photo: screenshot)
Organized crime groups occupy social networks to spread messages (Photo: screenshot)

In the case of Facebook, the algorithm itself encourages this type of encounter, since “Facilitates illicit activity by connecting criminals and terrorists with their supporters”. This, they noted, occurs faster than the platform identifies and removes the material.

Experts from the alliance have lobbied in Washington to regulate organized crime on social media, arguing that section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (1996) has granted “an expansive safe harbor to any provider of an ‘interactive computer service ‘”.

However, they highlighted, large technology companies have not been able to establish internal controls to regulate this type of activity, as it could mean a heavy loss. “Like the chemical companies that were very profitable half a century ago as long as they could dump toxic waste with immunity,” they pointed out.

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In this sense, the current regulations of technology companies would allow drug traffickers to operate with wide impunity in the digital world.


The terror of the narco reached social networks: the cartels’ digital campaigns to show their power
How the CJNG acquired weapons online: the method of the “Mencho” men
How is the arsenal with which the Jalisco Nueva Generación Cartel has managed to expand in Mexico comes from
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