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Sinema examines link between social media and cartels

Sen. Krysten Sinema.png
Courtesy: NPR
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, (D-Arizona), during a committee hearing in Washington, D.C.

Senator Kyrsten Sinema is taking a closer look at how cartels are using social media to recruit teenagers for smuggling operations.

She's also securing commitments from platforms to help fight the practice.

Sinema highlighted the problem during a recent Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing.

“Every day, cartels post on social media platforms and recruit teenagers in Arizona to act as drivers for illegal operations," the Senator told the committee. "Lured by the promise of easy cash, these teens – some as young as 14 – then take their parents’ cars to the border and participate in smuggling and trafficking.” 

Senator Sinema later questioned a TikTok executive about what it’s doing to protect users from the cartels.

“What steps does TikTok take to ensure its algorithms don’t promote cartel-sponsored content? " she asked Vanessa Pappas.

"It starts for us with our policies," replied Pappas. "Obviously, that type of content, any illicit activity, organized crime, including drug cartels is strictly prohibited from our platform. So, in that regard, we work with our trust and safety moderation teams to ensure that we are detecting that content through our technologies, and also through human moderation, to remove that content when found.”

The Senator secured commitments from TikTok, Meta, Twitter, and YouTube to share cartel-related content with the Department of Homeland Security whenever they detect it.

Lisa Sturgis’ return to KAWC brings her journalistic career full circle. Uncle Bob Hardy gave Lisa her first exposures to reporting back in the 1980s. She went on to spend more than three decades in TV news before making the decision to come home to NPR.