Following a 2019 BBC report that revealed how human traffickers were using Facebook to sell victims, Apple reportedly threatened to kick the social media giant off of its App Store, a new Wall Street Journal report reveals.
A Facebook investigation team reportedly spent over a year documenting human trafficking trades occurring in the Middle East, facilitated on their platform.
"On Facebook and Instagram, unscrupulous employment agencies advertised workers they could supply under coercive terms, using their photos and describing their skills and personal details," wrote the Wall Street Journal.
The social media company reportedly took down some of the offending pages, but "took only limited action to try to shut down the activity until Apple Inc. threatened to remove Facebook's products from the App Store unless it cracked down on the practice," the outlet continued. The threats from Apple came after the BBC published a report in 2019 outlining how human traffickers were using Facebook and other online platforms to sell humans.
"In Saudi Arabia, the investigation found hundreds of women being sold on Haraj, another popular commodity app. There were hundreds more on Instagram, which is owned by Facebook," wrote the BBC.
Following the BBC investigation, Facebook said that it had removed an Arabic hashtag, which translates as "#maidsfortransfer."
"We will continue to work with law enforcement, expert organizations and industry to prevent this behavior on our platforms," added a Facebook spokesman.
Facebook wrote in an internal report that it had known about the issue before the BBC's report. A Facebook researcher wrote in a report dated 2019, "was this issue known to Facebook before BBC inquiry and Apple escalation?"
"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 report stated.