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article imageAmazon Rainforest plots are being illegally sold using Facebook

By Karen Graham     Feb 26, 2021 in Internet
Plots of Brazil’s Amazon rainforest are being illegally sold on Facebook Marketplace, and include national forests and land reserved for indigenous peoples. Some of the plots are as large as 1,000 football pitches.
The BBC investigation revealed that many sellers were burning down large swaths of the rainforest with no fear the Brazillian government would step in to stop them. Many of the sellers openly admit they do not have a land title, the only document which proves ownership of land under Brazilian law.
“The land invaders feel very empowered to the point that they are not ashamed of going on Facebook to make illegal land deals,” Ivaneide Bandeira, head of environmental NGO Kanindé, told the BBC.
On January 3, 2021, it was estimated that there were more than 103,000 fires in the Brazilian Amazon in 2020, an annual increase of nearly 16 percent, said INPE, which uses satellite images to track fires and deforestation.
Burnt areas of the Amazon rainforest  near Boca do Acre  Brazil  in 2019 -- the number of wildfires ...
Burnt areas of the Amazon rainforest, near Boca do Acre, Brazil, in 2019 -- the number of wildfires in Brazil increased 12.7 percent in 2020
And with deforestation at an all-time high, Facebook's Marketplace has become a go-to site for sellers like Fabricio Guimarães, who was filmed by a hidden camera. Fabricio is not a farmer. He has a steady middle-class job in a city and views the rainforest as being an investment opportunity.
And by clearing a piece of land that is not his to sell, he triples his investment and can raise his asking price to $35,000 a plot. He is one of many who clear the land and then beg politicians to abolish its protected status, on the basis it no longer serves its original purpose.
Anyone can find the illegally invaded plots by typing the Portuguese equivalents for search terms like "forest," or "native jungle," and "timber" into Facebook Marketplace's search tool, and picking one of the Amazonian states as the location.
This file photo taken on August 7  2020 shows a deforested area of Brazil's Amazon rainforest i...
This file photo taken on August 7, 2020 shows a deforested area of Brazil's Amazon rainforest in Mato Grosso state; EU officials say distrust over President Jair Bolsonaro's treatment of the Amazon is holding up a major trade deal
Deforestation of the Amazon Rainforest has surged since far-right politician Jair Bolsonaro became president in January 2019. Bolsonaro has also cut funding to federal agencies that enforce environmental law by fining and arresting farmers and loggers breaching regulations.
And despite the record number of wildfires in the Amazon last year, Bolsanaro claimed that there are no fires in the Amazon, calling evidence produced by his own government showing thousands of blazes a “lie."
Suely Araújo, a former president of Ibama, the federal agency that regulates deforestation, has previously said that with “Bolsonaro’s speeches since 2018, what [illegal invaders] understand on the ground is that environmental crime is now free of charge," according to the Independent.
Aerial view of a burning area of Amazon rainforest reserve  south of Novo Progresso in Para state  B...
Aerial view of a burning area of Amazon rainforest reserve, south of Novo Progresso in Para state, Brazil, on August 16, 2020
Facebook responds to investigation
Facebook's Marketplace launched in October 2016 as an answer to the popular Craigslist website. And it seems it is working very well as Facebook continues its unending quest to eat the internet, creating its own versions of every popular activity on the web.
Facebook told the BBC it is "ready to work with local authorities" on the issue but it won't act on its own to halt or regulate the land sales. "Our commerce policies require buyers and sellers to comply with laws and regulations, the company said.
More about facebook marketplace, BBC Investigation, no legal title, indigenous reserves, lax enforcement
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