Saturday, October 23, 2021

Apple threatened to remove Facebook from the App Store for human trafficking

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Apple threatened to kick Facebook off its App Store after a 2019 BBC report detailed how human traffickers were using Facebook to sell victims, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The BBC published a sweeping undercover investigation of the practice, prompting Apple to threaten to remove Facebook from its store, the paper said.

The paper viewed company documents that show a Facebook investigation team was tracking down a human trafficking market in the Middle East whose organizers were using Facebook’s services. What appeared to be employment agencies were advertising domestic workers that they could supply against their will, per the Journal.

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.

Apple and Facebook did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Underneath the question reads, “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 Wall Street Journal on Thursday also reported how Facebook’s AI content moderators cannot detect most languages used on the platform, a needed skill if the company is going to monitor content in foreign markets where it has expanded.

The paper found that human moderators don’t know how to speak the languages used in those markets, leaving a blind spot in the company’s efforts to crack down on harmful content.

One result was drug cartels and human traffickers using the platform to conduct their business, per The Journal. Back in 2019, the BBC reported that human traffickers in the Middle East were using Facebook to arrange the sales of its victims. After that story was published, Apple threatened to boot Facebook from the App Store unless it cracked down on the practice, according to internal Facebook documents obtained by theThe Wall Street Journal.

Those internal documents reveal that Facebook was aware of the trafficking issue before the BBC report. They suggest that Facebook only took limited action to shut down the activity before Apple launched its threats.

News Summary:

  • Apple threatened to remove Facebook from the App Store for human trafficking
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