Apple Almost Pulled Facebook From App Store Over Human Trafficking Concerns

By Bill Galluccio

October 25, 2021

Photo: Getty Images

In 2019, Apple threatened to pull Facebook and Instagram from its App Store over concerns that the platforms were being used by human traffickers to buy and sell maids in the Middle East.

The revelations come from a trove of internal documents obtained by the Associated Press. Those documents include redacted disclosures made to the Securities and Exchange Commission, which were submitted to Congress by the legal counsel of former Facebook employee turned whistleblower Frances Haugen.

The documents show that Apple raised the issue with Facebook following BBC report that detailed how women were "being illegally bought and sold online in a booming black market" on Facebook and Instagram.

Facebook knew about the problem before the BBC report but didn't crack down hard until Apple threatened to pull Facebook and Instagram from its App Store. Soon after Apple made the threat, Facebook engineers identified and removed over 1,000 accounts that were engaging in what Facebook described as "domestic servitude."

A week later, Facebook communicated with Apple and described the steps it was taking to deal with the issue. Apple, apparently satisfied with Facebook's response, dropped the threat to pull the social media company's apps from its App Store.

Despite Facebook's crackdown, AP reporters were able to find numerous "accounts featuring posed photographs of Africans and South Asians with ages and prices listed next to their images."

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