Thousands of social media posts, pages and accounts advertising the services of people smugglers have been removed thanks to a landmark agreement between the National Crime Agency and five major social media companies.
The agreement, which was implemented just over a year ago and is supported by the Home Office, has seen an increase in the number of takedowns, as the NCA worked with Twitter, TikTok, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube to increase their understanding of how organised crime used their platforms to advertise illegal services.
It comes as representatives from the social media companies met with senior NCA officers and Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick at the Home Office today (24 April) to discuss the progress being made, and look at new ways forward.
The meeting heard how the since the action plan was agreed there has been positive engagement with social media channels, who have acted quickly on intelligence supplied by the NCA and removed content.
More than 3,300 posts, pages or accounts have been removed or suspended as a result, increasing disruption of organised crime groups’ activity.
The NCA assess that this has led the criminals to adapt their tactics to avoid detection.
Speaking after the meeting, NCA Director of Threat Leadership Chris Farrimond said: “The last year has seen a strong partnership develop between ourselves and the main social media companies, with the aim of preventing organised crime groups utilising their platforms.
“Our understanding is growing all the time, and we now have a solid foundation which we can build on by working together.
“Tragically this last year has also seen a number of fatalities both in the English Channel and further afield in the Mediterranean.
“This hammers home to us all the need to do more to stop these crime groups who treat their fellow humans as a commodity to be profited from with no regard for their safety or security.”
Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick said: “We expect social media companies to continue to work with government to take down social posts by evil people smugglers, and tackle their business model at source.
“We have gone further by introducing an amendment to the Online Safety Bill last week to ensure tech firms take proactive steps to stop people smugglers from conducting their business on social media.
“But these criminals will not stop and we must do more, faster, to stop the boats – one of the Government’s five priorities. That is why the Illegal Migration Bill will give immigration officers new powers to search for and seize electronic devices like mobile phones from people who come to the UK illegally, to help collect intelligence to catch and prosecute more criminals behind these crossings.”
Tackling organised immigration crime is a key priority for the NCA, which currently has more than 90 ongoing investigations into networks or individuals in the top tier of people smuggling or human trafficking – the highest number since the agency became operational nearly ten years ago.
The NCA continues to seek to disrupt the business models of these crime groups, through targeting their social media offering.
The social media action plan was implemented to bring greater collaboration against those crime groups using social media to recruit, communicate and advertise a range of services to migrants.
It sees a greater shared understanding of the threat from organised immigration crime between social media companies and the NCA, such as through the issuing of intelligence-based alerts by the NCA, as well as a more streamlined, two-way system of communication.
24 April 2023