United Kingdom

Apple threatened to remove Facebook from the App Store in 2019 over human trafficking, report claims

Apple threatened to remove Facebook's apps from the App Store in 2019, following a BBC report that showed human traffickers set up 'slave markets' to sell women to the highest bidder, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The WSJ obtained internal documents from the social media firm that detail how its own employees were searching for human traffickers in the Middle East.

Facebook investigators found these groups posted advertisements for domestic workers as a front for selling women off as slaves or sex workers.

The WSJ found that Facebook does remove some of these pages, but it has yet to design a system that stops offenders from reposting under a new account.

On the other hand, fixing this system does not put money in Facebook's pocket and the company would rather spend its time retaining users, helping business partners and 'at times placating authoritarian governments,' according to WSJ.

Brian Boland, a former Facebook vice president who oversaw partnerships with internet providers in Africa and Asia before resigning at the end of last year, told the paper that the social media company looks at abuse in developing countries as 'simply the cost of doing business.'

It is not yet clear why Apple did not follow through with its threat in 2019. 

DailyMail.com has reached out to Facebook and Apple for comment and has yet to receive a response.

The WSJ notes that Facebook's investigation team spent more than year documenting a booming slave trade in the Middle East, all of which was happening on its own apps – specifically the main Facebook app and Instagram

The WSJ notes that Facebook's investigation team spent more than year documenting a booming slave trade in the Middle East, all of which was happening on its own apps – specifically the main Facebook app and Instagram.

They found offenders shared photos, skill description and personal details of their victims, along with a specific hashtag that buyers know means they are looking at sex workers.

Facebook was found to have removed some of the pages, but this only occurred after Apple threatened to remove it from its App Store, according to the WSJ report.

And the threat was in response to a BBC story on maids for sale.

An internal memo found that Facebook was aware of the practice even before then: A Facebook researcher wrote in a report dated 2019, 'was this issue known to Facebook before BBC inquiry and Apple escalation?,' per the Journal.

And the answer includes: 'Yes. Throughout 2018 and H1 2019 we conducted the global Understanding Exercise in order to fully understand how domestic servitude manifests no our platform across its entire life cycle: recruitment, facilitation, and exploitation.'

The internal documents also note that Facebook is limited in how it operates in some countries due to the language barrier.

The social media firm, according to the documents, has few to no people who speak specific dialects necessary to identify such criminal acts.

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