Land grabbers in the Amazon rainforest are selling illegal plots via ads on Facebook marketplace, and many sellers don’t even own the land titles they’re offering.
The plots, some as large as 1,000 football fields combined, are located in protected areas for use by indigenous rainforest communities.
An investigation unravels a complex, reckless, behind-the-scenes scam to profiteer off of land indigenous (and, in Brazil, often disenfranchised) people need to survive.
Land grabbers first burn down large patches of the forest, enabled by the lax implementation of laws that free them of inspection or accountability of any kind.
Once the land is cleared, they post photos of the cleared land online, often with marked-up prices, to sell to wealthy buyers.
This practice is implicitly condoned by local politicians, whom the land grabbers lobby to obtain legal land titles to the land they deforest.
The indigenous people — a majority of whom reside in the most deforested rainforest region in Brazil say they lack government support to end the practice and are calling for Facebook to halt such sales.
The social media giant, in turn, has refused, citing the impossibility of being able to determine which plots are illegally owned.
For now, Facebook has thrown back the problem to the local judiciary and government authorities; the people whose land is being destroyed are seemingly left in the lurch.