Lankford, Sinema Crack Down on Cartels Using Social Media to Promote, Facilitate Illegal Border Crossing

WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK), lead Republican of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Government Operations and Border Management, was joined by Senator Kyrsten Sinema (R-AZ), Chair of the Subcommittee, as well as Senator Mark Kelly (D-AZ) and Senator Bill Hagerty (R-TN) to introduce the Combating Cartels on Social Media Act to crack down on cartels recruiting teenagers through social media to conduct smuggling and trafficking.

“Social media companies like YouTube and Facebook list in their ‘terms of service’ that their platform cannot be used for illegal activities, but then they allow human smugglers to buy ads, promote how to illegally enter the US, and demonstrate how to avoid the US Border Patrol when crossing the border,” said Lankford. “The largest social media companies pick and choose which illegal activities they like and which they do not like, and clearly they like people illegally crossing the US border. Either you block all illegal activity on your platforms or you don’t. Facilitating illegal crossing into the US encourages drug trafficking, dangerous travel along desert roads, and human smuggling. Social media companies may make a profit from selling ads for trafficking and illegal crossings, but human lives are lost and their companies are partners in the crime. This has to stop.”

“Cartels recruit teenage Arizonans to support smuggling and trafficking near our border – luring them into dangerous and illegal activities for easy cash that puts their lives and others at serious risk. We’re cracking down on this criminal activity, holding social media platforms accountable, and securing our border,” said Sinema

“It’s unacceptable that cartels and human traffickers are targeting and recruiting Americans on social media to break the law with the promise of making a quick buck. Our bill will help put a stop to this alarming practice that’s making the jobs of law enforcement and Border Patrol even harder. We’ll keep working closely with Border Patrol and our border communities to ensure they receive the support they need to keep Arizonans safe,” said Kelly. 

“Drug cartels have exploited the current open-border policies, fueling record drug-overdose deaths in the United States, human trafficking, and other criminal activity,” said Hagerty. “These dangerous cartels are now exploiting social media platforms to recruit American teenagers to transport migrants and drugs from the border, further endangering our communities. I’m pleased to work with my colleagues in taking this critical step to end the use of American social media platforms to destroy American lives.”

The bill comes after Lankford recently took social media giants to task on their products censoring some voices, including conservatives, using and selling user data, and using their products to help facilitate illegal border crossing at our southern border, particularly in the process of human trafficking. In a two-panel Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing, Lankford questioned executives from Tiktok, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and more.

The bill establishes and implements a national strategy to combat illicit recruitment activity by transnational criminal organizations on social media and online platforms to fight back against cartels using online platforms to recruit Americans for smuggling operations along the southwest border. By enhancing cooperation between government agencies and private sector platforms, the strategy will help law enforcement hold cartels accountable while also giving border communities the tools they need to engage with and educate at-risk youth who are targeted by the cartels. The bill also requires the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to analyze cartels’ illicit usage of social media and establishes a portal for technology companies to report cartel recruitment efforts in the US to DHS and state and local partners.