For illegal wildlife traders, there's a new sheriff in town.
Online portals have enabled poachers to sell their ill-gotten ivory, rhino horn, and other products on the black market because they can maintain anonymity and circumvent regulatory efforts to curtail illegal sales. But on Wednesday, Google, eBay, Facebook, and other tech giants announced a partnership with the World Wildlife Fund, the wildlife trade monitor TRAFFIC, and the International Fund for Animal Welfare to crack down on this practice.
Called the Global Coalition to End Wildlife Trafficking Online, the group will focus on training employees, raising awareness among consumers, and using machine learning to reduce illegal online sales, National Geographic reported. Although there are several strategies of prevention tailored to individual web platforms, one of the most important ones is using algorithms to detect certain key words and flag illegal sales posts before they can even go up.
Tech companies have been under pressure for a long time to crack down on these sales, but with this coalition, there is finally a concrete plan of action. "If the companies can take down the ads before they're even posted, we're in good shape," said Crawford Allan, the senior director of wildlife crime at the WWF.
NPR noted that though some of the other companies are newer to this battle, eBay has been working for years to prevent illegal sales of wildlife products. With the 21 tech companies now banding together, the Global Coalition aims to reduce online wildlife trafficking by 80 percent by 2020. Read more at National Geographic.