Tuesday 23 June 2020

Facebook Reportedly Bans its use in the Antiquities Trade

As a result of a sustained campaign by academics, mostly in the USA, Facebook has now banned illicit antiquities trafficking on the platform: “starting today we now prohibit the exchange, sale or purchase of all historical artefacts on Facebook and Instagram " (Steve Swann, Facebook bans 'loot-to-order' antiquities trade BBC 23.06.2020) This hopefully will affect British metal detectorists that were using the platform to promote their hobby and sell antiquities (including coins), so that is good news for the historical heritage of Britain too.
Facebook says all trade in ancient artefacts is banned on its platforms. The changes are included in a new set of Facebook Community Standards published on Tuesday. They ban content that "encourages or attempts to buy, sell or trade historical artefacts" or "attempts to solicit historical artefacts" [...] The social media giant is developing automated systems based on images and key words to identify content which violates the new policy "
We will see how effective this is, some researchers familiar with the way the trade works on facebook are sceptical. The problem has reached serious proportions, the article continues:
"Illicit antiquities trade on Facebook appears to have the greatest reach in the Middle East and North Africa where we are currently monitoring over 120 Facebook groups developed solely for looting and trafficking activity," said Prof Amr Al-Azm "The largest group we identified had roughly 150,000 members this time last year - now it has more than 437,000. " Part of the recent increase may be attributable to the effects of the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic. But this was not just a case of the impoverished selling antiquities to make a few dollars, said Prof al-Azm. "This is also a black market that funds criminal organisations, warlords, and radical extremists, and it's happening on the same site in the same digital space that you welcome into your home and [use to] share photos of your children."
What is most amazing about all this is that this is the effect of a campaign that was almost entirely a volunteer effort, led by a dedicated team of archaeologists determined to protect global heritage. If they can do it why can't British archaeologists deal with the metal detecting crisis in their midst?



southwestpaw said...

Dear Mr Burford,

Through my training, I was taught that when quoting other academics or caselaw it was good practice to site the reference of the primary or secondary source for the material whether journal article or case report reference.

Is the quote from Mr Al-Azm from any particular article, journal etc?

whilst the antiquities trade may 'possibly' be a source of revenue, I would like to see any actual evidence that the trade contributes more that 0.01% (0.01% too much obviously) BUT there is far far far easier low hanging fruit to be had through insurance fraud, illicit trades in other tradable quantities such as Heroin or other narcotics, weapons, people. If terrorist groups such as ISIS were interested in this as a meaningful way why WOULD they use Facebook? Whatsapp would be far more secure.

Yours Mr Scott

Paul Barford said...


Yes, the link to the BBC story is at the top of the post, see it? It's the underlined bit.

The word "terrorist" does not appear in my text. I watch my words and don't tend to use that mental short-cut here. Neither does my text discuss ISI[L].

There is quite a lot of literature on the trade in antiquities on Facebook that you are apparently unaware of. Try doing a search on this blog for some of it. As for the British metal detecting material, just ask around. Many of these groups are private.

Paul Barford said...

Southwestpaw says (among LOTS of other things) "Anywhy I digress".

Yes. This is a blog about (not for) portable antiquities collecting, and not a chat list. The post above is about Facebook banning antiquities sales.

Please stick to the topic, this is no place for witterings about your metal detecting friends, toppling of statues, looking for a missing wedding ring, stolen boats, Portland Stone (and yes, "oddly" I am aware that the quarries are in Dorset and not Oregon), the "end of history" (not Fukiyama though) and all the rest. Comment rejected as it's wholly off-topic. http://paul-barford.blogspot.com/2010/12/note-to-comment-posters.html (point 3)

Paul Barford said...

Southwestpaw seems not to understand what it says in the guidelines for commentators, I cannot "send my comment back as it took ages to write" even if I wanted to. You can write as much as you like about how "offended" you are, this is not a chatlist for metal detectorists.

The reference to boats that you now deny writing was the passage where for some reason you wrote: "this is not unique to items of antiquities (sic). Boats are stolen to order, cars are stolen to order and even pets being (sic) stolen to order", followed by musings on human nature. You are still off topic.

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