Human smugglers are targeting migrants on social media with ads; representatives point to tech giants

The ads promise a better way of life—risk free—experts disagree

Human smugglers are targeting migrants over social media ads with false promises of safe passage.

SAN ANTONIO – Social media in the digital age has given a voice and a platform for awe-inspiring things. However, that same platform is being used to target migrants trying to come into the United States.

Migrant youths, temporarily housed at the Freeman Coliseum Expo Hall, may have seen what was being posted on social media before leaving their home countries, Claudia Donoso, an assistant professor of international relations at St. Mary’s University, said.

“What a marketing strategy, relying on human suffering,” Donoso said. “We’re trusting these little kids with these networks of smugglers that just care about the profits.”

Donoso said human smugglers capitalize on the desperation in Central American countries, ravaged by hurricanes, violence, poverty and corruption.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Congress members are now looking at how human smugglers are using social media to coordinate their operations.

In a committee hearing on March 25, Congressman Buddy Carter of Georgia asked Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, “Do you feel complicit in what your platform is doing to assist in this disaster?”

“Congressman, we have policies and we’re working to fight this content,” Zuckerberg said. “We have policies against scams and groups and events like the content that you’re talking about.”

According to Zuckerberg, the postings are also against Facebook’s policies and the company has taken “a lot of steps” to stop it.

Carter said, “I hope you feel a sense of responsibility to help us with this, because we certainly need it.”

Although there is a media campaign underway in Central America to try to counter what many are reading and believing, Donoso said more needs to be done to discourage even more people, especially migrant youths, from making the treacherous journey.

“They are offering all these dreams and the idea that everything is going to be perfect at the other side of the border,” Donoso said. “Don’t believe the strangers that are offering you the gold and silver in the other side of the border.”

Also on KSAT:

Go on dangerous trek across Brooks County where 700 migrants have died

Volunteers now needed around-the-clock at Freeman Coliseum Expo Hall to help with migrant youths

Corruption in Central America seen as biggest challenge for Vice President Kamala Harris

About the Authors:

Jessie Degollado has been with KSAT since 1984. She is a general assignments reporter who covers a wide variety of stories. Raised in Laredo and as an anchor/reporter at KRGV in the Rio Grande Valley, Jessie is especially familiar with border and immigration issues. In 2007, Jessie also was inducted into the San Antonio Women's Hall of Fame.

Misael started at KSAT-TV as a photojournalist in 1987.