A dark background of the facebook mobile app next to an image of a hacker

The black market for looted and stolen antiquities is thriving on Facebook, the Verge reported. 

An investigative group, the ATHAR Project, explains how Facebook helps facilitate the illegal activity of antiquities trafficking in its platform. 

What is the ATHAR Project

The abbreviation ATHAR means Antiquities Trafficking and Heritage Anthropology Research Project. It is also an Arabic word that translates to antiquities. 

Various anthropologists and heritage experts lead the ATHAR project to investigate digital transnational trafficking, organized crime, and terrorism financing. 

What Did ATHAR Found Out?

Just last month, an antiquities trafficker in Darnah, Libya, posted a series of ads on the social media platform. 

The user posted an image of a Greco-Roman statue that seems to look like it should belong inside a museum. 

The ads, according to the ATHAR Project, posted Libyan artifacts for sale across different Facebook groups aimed at antique trafficking. 

In one group, the user’s post is only of the statue and does not include any caption.

According to ATHAR, once a picture is uploaded, it sends the signal that the item’s already for sale. 

Despite not having any caption, the aim is already obvious due to the name of the group, which in Arabic translates to “Antiquities for Sale.”

Usually, trafficking antiquities outside a war zone would take time, ATHAR Project said. However, Facebook expedites the selling process to potential buyers in just a matter of days. 

Facebook marketplace is chock-full of random items

On Facebook’s Mechanism

According to The Verge, although Facebook bans such activities, such as selling antiquities. However, there is a limit to its capacity. Besides, many of the posts and groups selling the stolen items are in Arabic. 

Moreover, once they identified the groups selling illegal items, Facebook just deletes them. 

According to experts, per the Verge, this adds to the problem, rather than the solution. Facebook’s removal of those posts also expunges critical evidence and documentation researchers use to study stolen items.

Add to it the company’s unwillingness to share its data with academics and researchers. 


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