Whether you like it or not, we now live in the age of social media. With practically limitless accessibility, social media can make anyone be part of a globally connected network where people can share just about anything. Unfortunately, this accessibility also makes social media a very hospitable platform to trade illegal wildlife. As social media continue to develop and expand their reach, they are also opening more and more opportunities for illegal wildlife traders to grow their market.
As the trade of illegal wildlife continues to migrate to social media and to other digital platforms, enforcement agencies will need to adapt to address the continuing proliferation of cybercrime. The good news is that social media provide a wealth of data that are easily accessible, and with the right tools and know-how, they allow enforcement agents to track illegal wildlife crimes and other activities that will help wildlife conservation efforts of the country.
The ADB/GEF-DENR Project on Combatting Environmental Organized Crime in the Philippines organized a seminar on “Environmental Conservation in the Digital Age” for representatives of member-agencies of National Law Enforcement Coordinating Committee-Sub-committee on Environment and Natural Resources (NALECC-SCENR), and for more than 150 students from De La Salle University and Ateneo de Manila University on November 26 and 27, 2019. The resource speaker was Dr. Enrico di Minin, an adjunct professor of the University of Helsinki and one of the leading experts in the world in using social media for environmental conservation.
The seminar introduced participants to different methods and techniques of mining data in social media platforms, evaluating mined data to investigate patterns of social behavior, and analyzing these patterned social behaviors to support management and marketing endeavors. The methods and techniques also showed different ways of tracking illegal wildlife trading in social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram.
Participants from government agencies shared some of their experiences related to Illegal Wildlife Trade (IWT) and expressed the need for further capacity building, including the hosting of workshops and trainings on different methods of mining and analyzing data on wildlife crimes committed online.
Faculty and students from the Ateneo de Manila University and De la Salle University likewise expressed strong interest in wildlife cybercrime and the opportunity for possible research collaboration and mentoring.
The general feedback of this seminar indicates that there is more work to do as regards wildlife cybercrime in the Philippines. Additionally, the increasing interest in addressing IWT of both enforcers and students provides the IWT Project and DENR encouragement to harness this energy and to create more avenues and opportunities for this interest to develop further. (IWT Project)