Social media tools provided by Facebook, YouTube and platforms like WhatsApp are enabling migrants seeking to cross the Mexico border into the United States to navigate their way before leading others to follow. According to a report Thursday by the Associated Press, intending migrants use the outlets to share information that is sent through immigrant communities, directing migration flows through the porous southern border at Del Rio. The AP report explains: Del Rio is just one example of how technology that has put a smartphone in the hands of nearly every migrant is transforming migration flows, according to advocates. Migrants often monitor the news and share information on routes. The most popular platform is WhatsApp, which connects 2 billion people worldwide.
Last week, in a Facebook group for Haitians in Chile with 26,000 members, one member posted specific instructions on routes through Mexico. It included paths to avoid and recommended certain bus companies. “Good luck and be careful,” said the post, written in Haitian Creole. The International Organization for Migration found most of the 238 Haitians who were surveyed in March after passing through a 60-mile stretch of jungle between Colombia and Panama known as the Darien Gap received route information from family or friends who had made the dangerous trek, according to AP. About 15 percent said they saw instructions on the internet. Agency spokesman Jorge Gallo said the web of social media instructions led the migrants to believe crossing the gap was “difficult but not impossible.” Facebook Inc., which owns WhatsApp, allows people to exchange information about crossing borders, even illegally, but maintains a policy prohibiting posts that ask for money for services that facilitate human smuggling.