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Facebook Fueling the Illicit Antiquities Trade Across the Middle East and North Africa 

1 March 2021

ATHAR Project and the Alliance to Counter Crime Online (ACCO) contributed posters about the ongoing initiatives to fight looting and trafficking of cultural goods.


ATHAR Project and CINTOC Joint Statement on Updated Securities and Exchange Commission Filing on Facebook Crime

27 May 2020

Internet crime watchdog organizations Center on Illicit Network and Organized Crime (CINTOC) and the Alliance to Counter Crime Online (ACCO) have released a major new filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission regarding ongoing crime and terrorism content on Facebook.

Alliance to Counter Crime Online 

Facebook’s Community Standards Game: Antiquities Trafficking

1 May 2020

Facebook just released its Community Standards updates for May 2020, an event that only comes once every few months. The change included updates to the section on Regulated Goods, the rules that dictate what types of items can and cannot be sold on the platform. Unfortunately, the sale of stolen and looted artifacts are still not mentioned in Facebook’s Community Standards.

Alliance to Counter Crime Online 

Facebook Antiquities Looters Remain Active as Pandemic Rages On

6 April 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has pushed much of the world online as countries move to enforce quarantine and social distancing measures. Posts in Facebook Groups for antiquities trafficking in the Middle East and North Africa show that looting at archaeological sites continues while authorities are occupied elsewhere.

Alliance to Counter Crime Online 

Instagram Just Created Reporting for Endangered Species — Almost One Year After it Was Listed in Their Community Guidelines

1 March 2020

Facebook and Instagram have relied on their users to report content — including criminal activity — rather than looking for the content proactively. The illegal sale of endangered species on Instagram is no exception.

Alliance to Counter Crime Online 

Facebook Is The Biggest Marketplace of Illegal Antiquities

3 July 2019

What is the biggest marketplace for illegal antiquities? Social media, in particular Facebook. Only 15 years old, Facebook has revolutionized the way we exchange and consume ideas, information and merchandise.

Morning Consult

Time to Clean Up Facebook’s Dark Side

25 June 2019

The world’s largest social media company does more than just connect people. Facebook has also become a repository for massive online criminal markets and terrorist groups.


[VIDEO] Tracking 21st Century Traffickers: Facebook’s Illicit Antiquities Problem

October 2018

Facebook has democratized the trafficking of illicit antiquities on a global scale. 


[PODCAST] With Facebook’s Help, Middle East Antiquities Trafficking Enters the Digital Age

17 August 2018

Amr al-Azm and Katie A. Paul talk with WPR’s senior editor Robbie Corey-Boulet about how looters and traffickers of Middle Eastern antiquities are using Facebook to improve and expand their illicit trade in the digital age.

WORLD POLItics review

The Middle East’s Other Facebook Revolution: Antiquities Trafficking in the Digital Age

14 August 2018

Looters are now targeting material with a previously unseen level of precision—a practice that Facebook makes remarkably easy.

middle east institute

ISIS Eyes Tunisia’s Cultural Heritage as Militants Return

9 November 2017

In a region with tens of thousands of archaeological sites, antiquities are as easily accessible as oil for terrorist groups controlling such archaeologically rich territory.



In Turkey, counterfeit Jewish artifacts are commonplace – and often sloppy

9 April 2021

In modern times, Turkey has become a nexus for the Illegal antiquities trade due to its proximity to conflicts in many of those former Ottoman provinces such as Syria, Iraq, Libya and elsewhere in the region.

EU AML/CFT Global Facility

Blood antiquities: the devil is in the demand

2 March 2021

Among Syrian-based Facebook groups a third of users offering artefacts were identified to be based in conflict zones. Social media, and other more discreet online platforms, enable the seller and buyer to transact without the middlemen usually associated with international smuggling.


Experts Call on Facebook to Address Illegal Trade on its Pages

25 February 2021

Experts tracking online crime urged prosecutors throughout the United States to address Facebook’s role in facilitating a multitude of illegal trades and marketplaces, including the illegal drug trade which the social media giant has allegedly facilitated amidst the ongoing opioid crisis. in the U.S.

Washington Post

The Capitol mob desecrated a historical workplace — and left behind some disturbing artifacts

8 January 2021

The Antiquities Trafficking and Heritage Anthropology Research (ATHAR) Project kept a lookout online for rioters’ stolen “souvenirs.” Katie Paul, the group’s co-director, says she saw postings for the lectern on Facebook Marketplace, where the sale of stolen goods is prohibited.

The star

The app that could help crack down on the trafficking of art pieces and cultural artefacts

8 January 2021

These cooperative efforts are essential given the booming trade of historical objects and antiquities on social media. Several ATHAR Project studies revealed that Facebook groups were facilitating the trade in objects stolen in conflict zones such as Syria, Iraq and certain North African countries.


From lockdowns to looting: how Covid-19 has taken a toll on world’s threatened heritage sites

8 January 2021

The Antiquities Trafficking and Heritage Anthropology Research Project, or Athar, led by anthropologists and heritage experts tracking illegal trafficking in stolen artefacts, reports that the online illicit trade in looted objects spiked after the pandemic hit, markedly in March and April.


Want to Buy Some Stolen Antiquities? Try Facebook.

9 December 2020

Accessing the black market for antiquities is no more difficult than requesting membership in the popular “Dogspotting” Facebook group. Facebook’s “Groups” feature lets users connect efficiently and (sort of) discretely to share the locations of loot like Egyptian coffins. According to the Antiquities Trafficking and Heritage Anthropology Research (ATHAR) Project—the only group of its kind monitoring social media—Facebook is the wellspring of the modern illicit antiquities trade, where traffickers thrive because of the platform’s laissez-faire regulation.

Frame Magazine

Why those in art and design must stay vigilant about the illegal trade of cultural goods

9 December 2020

According to The UNESCO Courier, a team of anthropologists and heritage experts at the Antiquities Trafficking and Heritage Anthropology Research (ATHAR) Project realized that there was a surge in the sale of stolen cultural objects on social media networks during the first lockdown this year.


Facebook removing evidence of war crimes — researchers

1 December 2020

The ATHAR Project’s researchers certainly do not mince their words. For them, Facebook is effectively deleting evidence of war crimes by wiping all traces of illegal art trafficking on the social network. The ATHAR Project (Antiquities Trafficking and Heritage Anthropology Research) once again sounded the alarm Wednesday, Nov. 25, that the trafficking of antiquities remains rife in Facebook groups that can have thousands of members.

La Depeche

Facebook supprime des preuves de crimes de guerre, selon des chercheurs

26 November 2020

Les scientifiques du projet Athar ne mâchent pas leurs mots. Pour ces chercheurs, Facebook participe à effacer les preuves des crimes de guerre en supprimant les traces de ventes illégales d’oeuvres d’art sur le réseau social. Ce mercredi 25 novembre, le projet Athar a encore démontré que le trafic d’antiquités sévissait toujours dans des groupes Facebook aux milliers d’abonnés.


Organised crime in Africa / Inside the illegal trade in West Africa’s cultural heritage

27 November 2020

Research focused on North Africa has found that online groups are now playing a vital role in antiquities trafficking. Social media platforms, particularly Facebook, play host to these groups. Looters on the ground, at remote sites and in conflict zones, connect online with potential buyers around the world. Social media platform monitoring of criminal and harmful activity by their users is poor.

The Verge

Facebook is deleting evidence of war crimes, researchers say

25 November 2020

The black market for looted goods is flourishing on Facebook. While the company banned the sale of historical artifacts in June, many of the posts are in Arabic, and Facebook lacks the expertise to properly enforce its new policy.


Pandemic harms efforts to rein in antiquities theft

9 November 2020

From ancient mosaics to world-famous canvasses — the trafficking of cultural treasures has gathered pace during the coronavirus pandemic with criminals increasingly conducting the trade online.


Experts Welcome Facebook’s Ban on Antiquities Trade Posts

2 July 2020

Anthropologists and heritage experts who have called for more due diligence on the part of the legitimate antiquities market welcomed Facebook’s new community standards that have put historical artifacts on the list of items forbidden to post for sale on the platform.


US Arts and Crafts Store sues Christie’s for Selling Stolen Artifact

25 May 2020

After having paid massive fines and having returned thousands of questionably acquired antiquities, Hobby Lobby, a US based arts and crafts chain which heavily funded the Museum of the Bible in Washington DC, is now suing Christie’s for the US$1.6 million they had paid for a 3,500 years-old cuneiform tablet from Iraq that turned out to have been stolen.


CULTURE & COVID-19 Impact & Response Tracker

13 May 2020

The Antiquities Trafficking and Heritage Anthropology Research (ATHAR) Project, a UNESCO partner which investigates and documents the digital underworld of trafficking in looted artefacts, has found an uptick in posts on Facebook groups involved in the buying and selling of looted objects from the Middle East and North Africa in recent months, as many countries went into lockdown.

Art &Object 

Antiquities Looters Are Making Use of COVID Chaos

12 May 2020

In North Africa and the Middle East, looters of ancient sites are taking advantage of distracted authorities to nab more historical treasures. The ATHAR Project (Antiquities Trafficking and Heritage Anthropology Research), a group of anthropologists that tracks the illicit sale of antiquities online, is reporting an increase in activity on the Facebook groups they monitor.

Le Figaro

Pendant le confinement, Facebook se transforme en centre de commerce illégal d’antiquités

10 May 2020

Profitant de la vulnérabilité de certains sites archéologiques, les pilleurs et trafiquants d’œuvres d’art profitent de la crise sanitaire. Un marché noir numérique s’est ainsi développé sur le réseau social.


Authorities Recover 19,000 Artifacts in International Antiquities Trafficking Sting

8 May 2020

A joint operation undertaken by Interpol, Europol, the World Customs Organization and local police forces has recovered 19,000 artifacts from 103 countries, the global policing organization announced this week.


Global Crackdown on Illegal Antiquities Trade Sees 101 Arrests

8 May 2020

In a massive crackdown on the illegal antiquities trade that spanned over 100 countries, international and national law enforcement agencies arrested 101 individuals and recovered  some 19,000 archeological artifacts,  Interpol  reported on Wednesday.


Smuglere har kronede dage på det online sorte marked

6 May 2020

Mens pandemien raser over jorden, har smuglere travlt under jorden og i den virtuelle verden. Den ulovlige online handel med antikviteter og arkæologiske fund fra især Mellemøsten og Nordafrika fortsætter ufortrødent og tager endda til, mens myndighederne har blikket rettet mod corona.


The smugglers, who include terrorist organizations, use Facebook to coordinate their efforts and crowdsource information.

4 May 2020

A new report from Katie Paul, co-director of the Antiquities Trafficking and Heritage Anthropology Research (ATHAR) Project, highlights these nefarious acts, while the ATHAR twitter feed calls on Facebook to account for their reckless online practices, which facilitate such sales.

artnet news

Looters Are Taking Advantage of the Worldwide Lockdown to Rob Cultural Heritage Sites—and Selling Their Stolen Wares on Facebook

1 May 2020

As archaeological sites become increasingly vulnerable to looting amid global lockdowns, Facebook has emerged as an increasingly popular hub of the illicit trade. The ATHAR Project has seen a recent surge of activity on the social-media platform, particularly concerning looted objects from the Middle East and North Africa.


Smugglers Are Using Coronavirus Lockdowns To Loot Artifacts

30 April 2020

A group that tracks looted artifacts online says that thieves in the Middle East and North Africa are taking advantage of coronavirus lockdowns to pillage archeological sites and sell their finds on online black markets.


[PODCAST] DEEP DIVE Episode 1 – Destruction or Theft?

30 April 2020

Destruction or Theft? Between 2014 and 2017, the Islamic State group occupied territory in Iraq. At its height it controlled almost a third of the country and over 4,500 historical sites.


Online antiquities smugglers are taking advantage of the coronavirus crisis

29 April 2020

The online trade of illicit antiquities seems to be on the rise during the coronavirus crisis. The ATHAR Project, which investigates and documents the digital underworld of trafficking in looted artefacts, has found an uptick in posts on Facebook groups involved in buying and selling looted objects from the Middle East and North Africa in recent months, as many countries went into lockdown.


Art traffickers: Pillaging peoples’ identities

1 April 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated this phenomenon. During the lockdown, the Antiquities Trafficking and Heritage Anthropology Research (ATHAR(link is external)) Project, a team of anthropologists and heritage experts specializing in digital networks for art trafficking, observed a resurgence in the sale of stolen objects on social networks – particularly from the Middle East and North Africa. The investigative study by this UNESCO partner led Facebook to ban the trade of historic cultural objects on its online platform.

Urdu point

Lebanon Serves As Main Gateway For Terrorists To Smuggle Artifacts From Syria – Researcher

28 November 2019

Terrorists use Lebanon as the main exit point for trafficking in looted Syrian antiquities, while the buyers are spread all over the world, Amr al-Azm, co-director of the Antiquities Trafficking and Heritage Anthropology Research (ATHAR) Project, told Sputnik in an interview.



11 October 2019

The history of Facebook is marked by a slew of accusations thrown against them by everyone from free-speech advocates to wildlife activists and, so far, they have managed to elude almost every one of them with slippery, noncommittal remarks, hiding underneath vague policies and loopholes such as Section 230 of the Communication Decency Act (CDA) of 1996, which gives technology companies immunity from any content posted onto their platforms by third parties.


Social network facilitatori per il traffico di opere d’arte: il caso della Siria

29 August 2019

I gruppi Facebook sono una delle piattaforme per far incontrare domanda e offerta. La network analysis e lo studio delle trattative ha messo in evidenza il modus operandi di mediatori legati all’ISIS e Al Qaeda.


How Social Media is Allowing for Illegal Antiquities Trafficking

11 July 2019


The Antiquities Trafficking and Heritage Anthropology Research (ATHAR) Project has published a critical report on West Asian antiquities trafficking taking place more or less out in the open on Facebook.


Terrorists are trafficking looted antiquities with impunity on Facebook

3 July 2019

Networks of criminals are trading priceless Middle Eastern antiquities—from entire Roman mosaics to full Pharaonic coffins—on Facebook, and there are no rules to stop them. 


The Technology 202: Social media companies readying to combat disinformation in Democratic debates

26 June 2019

The Alliance to Counter Crime Online and the ATHAR Project are warning House lawmakers that Facebook “has also become a repository for massive online criminal markets and terrorist groups,” according to a letter they submitted as the House holds a counterterrorism hearing.


‘Blood Antiquities’ Looted from War-Torn Yemen Bring in $1 Million at Auction

5 June 2019

A team of researchers with the ATHAR Project has been monitoring 95 Facebook groups whose members include looters, antiquities sellers and buyers.



Tomb raiders turn to Facebook to peddle treasures stolen from conflict zones

1 June 2019

A decade after Facebook played a role in toppling regimes in the Arab Spring, opportunistic tomb raiders have turned to the platform to sell antiquities stolen in the wake of those uprisings.


How Technology Is Tracking Stolen Artifacts

27 May 2019

Technology is playing a pivotal role in the global ancient artifacts trade. Thieves are using the anonymity of the internet to sell stolen relics, while authorities are using cutting-edge tools to assess the damage to plundered sites and raise awareness of stolen works.

GULF Today

The dark side of social networking sites

17 May 2019

While E-bay and other internet platforms have been advertising and selling stolen artefacts for years, Facebook has reached the top in cultural heritage commerce. Azm and Paul reported that Facebook has become “the most high profile of the social media platforms that have been used as vehicles for the sale of illicit artefacts.”

the verge

Early Facebook executives have reached a surprising consensus about the company’s power

10 May 2019

Ancient treasures pillaged from conflict zones in the Middle East are being offered for sale on Facebook, researchers say, including items that may have been looted by Islamic State militants.

daily mail uk

Ancient treasures ‘looted by ISIS’ including a statue from ravaged Palmyra are being ‘offered for sale on Facebook’

10 May 2019

Professor Amr Al-Azm’s Athar Project uncovers stolen Middle Eastern Antiquities which he says are now for sale on Facebook.


Looted Antiquities From Syria And Iraq Are Being Sold On Facebook

10 May 2019

It is not just black market sales that are occurring on the popular social network. These groups are also posting plans and advice for looting excursions, with one group discussing the dangers of tomb collapse and another posting videos on makeshift pumps to keep excavation sites dry.


Now for Sale on Facebook: Looted Middle Eastern Antiquities

9 May 2019

Ancient treasures pillaged from conflict zones in the Middle East are being offered for sale on Facebook, researchers say. Facebook groups advertising the items grew rapidly during the upheaval of the Arab Spring and the ensuing wars, which created unprecedented opportunities for traffickers.

mediafile dc

Social Media: The Front Lines of International Scandal and Crime

6 May 2019

While some people use the hidden, remote parts of the internet to conduct illegal business, others use Facebook. According to the BBC, traffickers who have stolen antiquities from Syria and Iraq in the wake of ISIS’ retreat, are using Facebook to sell these artifacts to buyers in Turkey.


Revealed: Thousands of looted artefacts from Middle East sold in Europe via social media

4 May 2019

Artefacts from Syria and other Middle Eastern countries are being looted and then sold on social media, with many ending up in Europe. “In Iraq, Libya, Yemen … looting has become really endemic and systematic.”


Artefacts looted from Iraq and Syria sold on Facebook

3 May 2019

Antiquities from Syria and Iraq are being traded on a large network of dedicated Facebook groups that often have as many as 120,000 members.



Antiquities looted in Syria and Iraq are sold on Facebook

2 May 2019

Facebook is being used by networks of traffickers to buy and sell looted antiquities, the BBC has learned. Private groups also discuss how to illegally excavate ancient tombs, according to research by academics.



2 May 2019

Facebook is being used by networks of traffickers to buy and sell looted antiquities, the BBC has learned. Private groups also discuss how to illegally excavate ancient tombs, according to research by academics. [Starts at 15:50 mark]


Facebook shut down 49 groups being used by looters to sell stolen ancient artifacts like Roman mosaics

2 May 2019

“What we’ve seen is an explosion of sites and users on Facebook. It’s transnational and Facebook is essentially allowing this to happen on its watch,” al-Azm told the BBC.


Ancient treasures looted from Syria and Iraq are being sold on Facebook, experts warn

2 May 2019

In addition to Facebook pages offering looted antiquities, some also offer “looting to order,” where people ask for certain items that are subsequently stolen, according to the archaeologist. Facebook told the BBC that it has removed 49 groups as a result of the broadcaster’s investigation.


Facebook Pulls 49 Sites Selling ‘Stolen-to-Order’ Antiquities From Syria and Iraq

2 May 2019

Facebook has shut down 49 “loot-to-order” antiquities-trafficking pages selling bespoke artifacts from war zones to clandestine collectors, in response to a two-year BBC investigation.


Real-life tomb raiders: Egypt’s $US3 billion smuggling problem

20 October 2018

Social media has played a significant role in resurgence of the illegal trade.

NRC Handelsblad

Wie illegaal wil opgraven moet op Facebook zijn

12 October 2018

Two ‘archaeoactivists’ have followed facebook groups about illegal excavations for a year. Trade is being conducted in illegally excavated treasures. It is teeming with tips about good sites and the approach to an excavation. [Translated from Dutch]

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