It’s history: Facebook bans sale of artefacts

Published by Florence McCrae on July 1st 2020, 10:10am

Facebook has announced that they will remove any content “that attempts to buy, sell or trade in historical artifacts.”

The social media platform has faced criticism of late for enabling looted Middle Eastern antiquities to be sold. Archaeologists and activists have been monitoring the site’s illicit antiquities trade, finding some 200 Facebook groups with over two million members. The groups offer tutorials on how to dig up and deliver the most desirable items, as well as enabling sellers and buyers to find one another.

Public policy manager at Facebook, Greg Mandel, said that: “We’ve long had rules preventing the sale of stolen artifacts.” However, he added that: “To keep these artifacts and our users safe, we’ve been working to expand our rules, and starting today, we now prohibit the exchange, sale or purchase of all historical artifacts on Facebook and Instagram.”

The new policy defines historical artefacts as: “rare items of significant historical, cultural or scientific value”, this includes coins, seals, scrolls, manuscripts and funerary items.

There are a number of instances in which real-time instructions are given to looters by those selling the items online. According to Katie Paul, the co-director of the Antiquities Trafficking and Heritage Anthropology Research Project: “They literally will post pictures from auction catalogues and say, ‘See, this is how much this stuff can sell for, so go for it guys.’”

She continued that the provenance of items are proven by providing videos of pieces being unearthed.

Paul issued a reminder to Facebook, that: “a policy is only as good as its enforcement.”

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Florence McCrae
Literary Editor
July 1st 2020, 10:10am

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