Apple Nearly Banned Facebook From iPhones Due To Human Trafficking

by : Emily Brown on : 26 Oct 2021 16:41
Apple Nearly Banned Facebook From iPhones Due To Human TraffickingAlamy

Apple reportedly threatened to remove Facebook and Instagram from its app stores after they were found to be facilitating human trafficking in the Philippines.

The warning is said to have been issued two years ago when concerns were raised over the platform being used to both trade and sell maids.


Facebook promised publicly to crack down on the issue, though acknowledged in internal documents that it was ‘under-enforcing on confirmed abusive activity’ which saw Filipina maids complaining on the social media site of being abused.

Facebook (Alamy)Alamy

The documents, obtained by The Associated Press, referred to an investigation into the issue and acknowledged some countries across the Middle East have ‘especially egregious’ human rights issues when it comes to labourers’ protection.

One document read:


In our investigation, domestic workers frequently complained to their recruitment agencies of being locked in their homes, starved, forced to extend their contracts indefinitely, unpaid, and repeatedly sold to other employers without their consent. In response, agencies commonly told them to be more agreeable.

We also found recruitment agencies dismissing more serious crimes, such as physical or sexual assault, rather than helping domestic workers.

Apple’s threat came after a BBC report which discussed the exploitive conditions of foreign workers and the use of Instagram to buy and trade maids online. The documents acknowledge that Facebook was aware of the issues before the report, and noted that Apple cited examples of pictures of maids and their biographic details showing up online.

iPhone app store (Alamy)Alamy

Referring to the issue as ‘domestic servitude’, Facebook defined it as a ‘form of trafficking of people for the purpose of working inside private homes through the use of force, fraud, coercion or deception.’


Apple later relented on its threats, though Facebook’s promises to address the issue appear to have had a limited effect as searches still return photographs of African and South Asian people with ages and prices listed, AP reports. The Philippines government is also taking action by having workers search Facebook to protect job seekers from harmful recruiters and gangs.

Facebook has said it took the problem seriously, saying in a statement: ‘We prohibit human exploitation in no uncertain terms. We’ve been combating human trafficking on our platform for many years and our goal remains to prevent anyone who seeks to exploit others from having a home on our platform.’

Social media icons on phone (Pexels)Pexels

Nearly three-quarters of all problematic posts, including those showing maids in videos and screenshots of their conversations, occurred on Instagram, while links to maid-selling sites were mostly found on Facebook, according to an analysis by Facebook in 2019.


The study also found that more than 60% of the material came from Saudi Arabia, and about a quarter came from Egypt. Facebook disabled over 1,000 accounts on its websites, though users at the time reported only 2% of problematic content.

The analysis also addressed the potential impact of Apple’s threats, writing: ‘Removing our applications from Apple platforms would have had potentially severe consequences to the business, including depriving millions of users of access.’

In its statement to AP, Facebook said it delivers ‘targeted prevention and support ad campaigns in countries such as the Philippines where data suggests people may be at high risk of exploitation.’

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Emily Brown

Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University and went on to contribute to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming Senior Journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news, trending stories and longer form features.

Topics: News, Abuse, Apple, Facebook, Human Trafficking, Instagram, Now, Philippines


Associated Press
  1. Associated Press

    Apple once threatened Facebook ban over Mideast maid abuse