Tracts of Amazon rainforest stolen from indigenous tribes are up for sale on Facebook
- Plots as large as 1,000 football pitches have been illegally cleared and burned
- They were cleared to be used for cattle and listed on Facebook’s Marketplace
- The protected areas include protected land reserved for indigenous people
Brazil’s highest court has ordered an inquiry after protected areas of the Amazon rainforest were offered for sale on Facebook.
An investigation revealed plots as large as 1,000 football pitches that had been illegally cleared so they could be used as cattle pasture and farmland were listed on the social media site’s Marketplace.
Protected areas include national forests and land reserved for indigenous people.
Deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon surged to a 12-year high in 2020, according to government data published in November
Now, the country’s Supreme Federal Court is asking the government to ‘take the appropriate civil and criminal measures’.
Facebook said it was ‘ready to work with local authorities’ but indicated it would not take independent action of its own.
The BBC documentary’s probe revealed anyone can find the invaded plots by typing in the Portuguese equivalents of search terms like ‘forest’ into the Facebook Marketplace search tool.
Some listings feature satellite shots and GPS co-ordinates.
However many sellers openly admit they do not have a land title – the only document which proves ownership in Brazil.
One seller, Fabricio Guimaraes, had burned a patch of rainforest to the ground and set an asking price of £25,000.
Brazilian Supreme Court Justice Luis Roberto Barroso has asked the country’s attorney general and the ministry of justice to investigate the findings.
Facebook did not immediately reply to a request for comment. Last week the tech firm told the BBC it was ‘ready to work with local authorities’ on the issue.
‘The decision is based on a documentary broadcast by BBC News last week, which denounced the use of Facebook for advertising and marketing land in the Amazon,’ said the Supreme Court in a statement.
One seller, Fabricio Guimaraes, had burned a patch of rainforest to the ground and set an asking price of £25,000
Deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon surged to a 12-year high in 2020, according to government data published in November.
Environmentalists say Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro has weakened conservation efforts and raised hopes that new laws would legalise the claims of land-grabbers.
‘Invasions and land-grabbing only happen because of impunity,’ said Ivaneide Bandeira, from the Association of Ethno-Environmental Protection Kaninde, a non-profit organisation that assists the Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau.
‘So this decision from Barroso gives us hope that something will change, that the law will work.’
Barroso said the investigation should not be restricted to the Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau territory, but should also cover ‘all other indigenous lands’.