CHICAGO — An undercover sting has exposed a "dark web" of illegal sales of guns and drugs.
Police officials announced the arrests of 53 people as part of their investigation known as "Operation FaceBOOKED."
Arrests were made when officers found sellers in private Facebook groups and made a deal.
"If our undercover officers don't immediately buy them, they're sold," said First Deputy Supt. Anthony Riccio. "They're sold for well over what they would sell for in a gun store because the purchasers know they are buying them discreetly."
Investigators within CPD's Bureau of Organized Crime said members of covert groups are making these deals. Typical Facebook users cannot find these groups with a simple search. They have to be invited inside. But police said Facebook is stopping them when they realize undercover officers are not who they say they are.
"Facebook is harboring criminals. Criminals know how to use the privacy Facebook affords them, and they profit from the sale of illegal drugs," said Riccio. "The people who are doing the illegal acts, under their own identities, Facebook doesn't shut them down. But when they find out there are officers working undercover, with covert identities, Facebook will shut those officers down... because we're not real."
Police officials are not saying that Facebook is assisting in any criminal activity, but they are saying the company is not doing enough to shut down groups where narcotics and weapons are being sold.
"All it would take, is allowing us to work with Facebook just like we work with neighbors and businesses to stop the sale of illegal guns," said Interim Police Superintendent Charlie Beck. "The only difference is where it's being bought."
Facebook company spokeswoman Sarah Pollack released the following statement:
“Illicit drug and firearms sales have no place on our platform. We remove content and accounts that violate our policy and catch over 97% of drug sale content and over 93% of the firearms sales content we remove before it is reported to us."
"We’ve had productive conversations with Mayor Lightfoot’s office about promoting public safety in Chicago and look forward to continuing them. We remain ready to quickly respond to valid legal process from the Chicago Police Department in order to prosecute those who break the law and refer any matters involving credible threats to prevent harm.”