National Crime Agency points to digital media companies refusing to remove pages it suspects are being used by criminal traffickers


November 10, 2020

The National Crime Agency has laid out details on the digital media platforms it suspects are being used by criminals to encourage organised immigration crime.

This includes deadly Channel trips in small boats, by which nearly 8,000 people have been reported as crossing in 2020 so far (see our Channel Tracker).

The new details came in a piece of written evidence to the Commons Home Affairs Committee, dated September 2020 but published on 7 October 2020.

In oral evidence, the NCA's representative Rob Jones had previously told the Committee on 3 September that traffickers depend on communications via social media, including end-to-end encrypted platforms in closed groups, to facilitate immigration crime.

Mr Jones said that, between January and May 2020, it had referred 1,218 social media pages for closure. Of these, as of 3 September, 578 had been closed, 485 remained open and decisions were awaited in respect of the remaining 155.

Despite reticence to go into too much detail in that hearing, the NCA subsequently provided written evidence to the HAC, published on 7 October.

This provides clarification on the companies that are not cooperating stating:

  • 'The attrition rate relating to takedowns (the figures above on pages remaining open despite NCA complaints)... relates to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram'
  • 'The most prominent social media sites/applications featuring posts linked to organised immigration crime include Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Telegram. Less frequently, posts are also seen on alternative platforms such as YouTube, TikTok and various blog-hosting services. The posts on all of these sites are observed in a range of languages.'
  • 'Recent research to examine the use of alternative social media platforms has also identified the use of foreign-language sites and applications such as Weibo, WeChat, Baidu BBS, Zalo and VKontakte.'

Commenting on this news, Alp Mehmet, Chairman of Migration Watch UK, said:

This is shocking behaviour from companies that should know better. There is simply no excuse for them to refuse to cooperate with the NCA in shutting down pages the Agency believes are being used by criminal gangs to lure people into making deadly trips.


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