Mexican Drug Cartels Use TikTok to Smuggle Migrants, Recruit Them for Crimes, Abbott Says
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Mexican drug cartels are using social media apps, such as TikTok, to smuggle migrants and recruit them to work in their illegal operations.
Abbott showed two TikTok videos to support his claims during a press conference on Thursday, according to a KLKNTV report.
Mexican drug cartels are trying to allure people with money, parties, boats, and fun but downplay the organizations' criminal side, such as the murder. Greg Abbott noted that the cartels are not only smuggling drugs into Texas but also of people.
"These are two pictures from TikTok. And these are ads or videos and things being run by cartels on TikTok, trying to recruit people in Texas to assist them to commit their crimes with the promise of money and other things," Abbott said.
Greg Abbott further noted that these tactics result from the Mexican drug cartels feeling invigorated by the Biden administration's border policies.
Experts said there is nothing new with Mexican drug cartels using social media platforms. Andy Shuttleworth, who spent more than 30 years working in the federal government, told Fox San Antonio that these posts have been happening long before President Joe Biden took office.
But with the availability of more cell phones and more internet service globally, Shuttleworth, who also worked at the Department of Homeland Security, noted that the scheme is becoming more prevalent, and it's not only happening on TikTok.
A father from Honduras said he saw an ad on Facebook, promising him a chance at the American dream and reunite with his daughters.
"I observed this back in 2008, all the way up through the 2014 crisis, it's always been there," Shuttleworth said.
Organized Crime Groups Enticing People
Howard Campbell, an anthropologist and drug expert at the University of Texas at El Paso, said that Mexican drug cartels have long used social media for their scheme and operations, including intimidating their enemies.
Campbell noted that it has proven to be an effective strategy, adding that TikTok is just the latest phase of this tactic, Courier-Journal reported.
David Saucedo, a Mexico City-based security analyst, said that TikTok is being used mainly by cartels to promote a lifestyle and generate a picture of luxury and glamour, including the "benefits" of joining criminal activities.
Saucedo noted that he has already seen a few criminal messages and videos that encourage people to join the cartel by showing images of unlimited cash, parties, and military-grade firearms.
According to a UNICEF survey, cartels were also reported to practice forced recruitment, which drives families in Central America to flee their homes and seek asylum in other countries.
Criminal gangs in Mexico have already recruited about 35,000 children and adolescents, the Child Rights Network in Mexico noted.
Derek Maltz, a former agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Agency's Special Operations Division, said the use of social media is an attractive recruitment tool for the young culture since they widely used it, especially TikTok.
With only one like on one of these videos, experts said people would end up in the # CartelTikTok's world due to the algorithm.
A search of the #CartelTikTok community and its related accounts shows some people are responding, and millions of TikTok users could be seen glorifying the Mexican drug cartels culture by liking, watching, and promoting this content.
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