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Report: Instagram, other apps sold in Google, Apple app stores being used to facilitate human trafficking

A chilling new report

Photo by MADAREE TOHLALA/AFP via Getty Images

A new report from the BBC has revealed that human traffickers are using social media platforms and easily obtained apps to sell domestic slaves.

Human traffickers are allegedly using Instagram and other applications that are easily available for download or purchase through both Google's and Apple's online app stores.

What are the details?

A team from BBC News Arabic, who posed as a husband and wife, went undercover in Kuwait to get up close and personal with what they believed to be were human traffickers selling slaves on social media.

In video posted Tuesday, the team said, "In the Gulf, women employed as 'domestic workers' are being sold via online apps approved and provided by Google and Apple. It's been called an online slave market."

The team met with several purported human traffickers, and in one instance, was shown a 16-year-old girl from Guinea, West Africa, to purchase for just $3,800.

The network reported that much of the business has been "carried out on Facebook-owned Instagram, where posts have been promoted via algorithm-boosted hashtags, and sales negotiated via private messages."

You can read more on the team's findings here.

Maids for Sale: Silicon Valley's Online Slave Market - BBC News www.youtube.com

What else?

Urmila Bhoola — U.N. Special Rapporteur, Contemporary Forms of Slavery — told BBC News Arabic, "This is the quintessential example of modern slavery. Here we see a child being sold and traded like chattel, like a piece of property."

Bhoola added that tech companies allowing this type of behavior to proliferate should also be held accountable.

"Google, Apple, Facebook, or any other companies [that] are hosting apps like these, they have to be held accountable," Bhoola said. "What they are doing is promoting an online slave market."

A spokesperson for Instagram told the network that it "removed further content across Facebook and Instagram" and would "prevent the creation of new accounts designed to be used for the online slave market."

Facebook also reportedly banned the use of a certain hashtag meant to promote such commerce. Both Google and Apple insisted that they would be working with app developers in order to prohibit such activity.

International lawyer Kimberley Motley told the network that tech giants insist they are "responsible for everything" on their respective online stores.

“On [the] Apple Store, they proclaim that they are responsible for everything that's put on their store," Motley said. “And so our question is, what does that responsibility mean?"

One last thing…
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