HomeinetFacebook: Attempts to combat content that promotes human trafficking

Facebook: Attempts to combat content that promotes human trafficking

According to his internal documents Facebook, reviewed by CNN, the platform has been fighting for years to combat human trafficking-related content and especially with what he calls "domestic servitude":a form of human trafficking for the purpose of work at home through the use of force, fraud, coercion or deception".

Facebook human trafficking

The company knew from at least 2018 that human traffickers use its platforms in this way. In fact the problem was so intense that in 2019 Apple threatened to withdraw Facebook and Instagram access to the App Store. This would be a major blow to Facebook because through the App Store it can reach hundreds of millions of users each year. Facebook employees rushed to remove the problematic content and make emergency changes to the company's policies to avoid what they described as a "potentially serious" consequence for the company.

See also: Facebook is going through an existential crisis: Its users are getting older!

But while Facebook has managed to allay Apple's concerns and avoid being removed from the App Store, human trafficking still exists on the platform. Facebook's internal documents describe women victims of trafficking, who have been physically and sexually abused, deprived of food and pay, and have lost their travel documents (taken from them) so that they cannot escape. Earlier this year, an internal Facebook report noted that "There are still gaps in the location of entities on the platform, which are involved in domestic work“. Nouns, Facebook is used to recruit, buy and sell what Facebook documents call "domestic slaves".

Last week, CNN has identified active Instagram accounts that are supposed to offer home helpers for sale. These accounts were similar to accounts that Facebook researchers had identified and removed. Facebook removed the accounts and posts after the CNN report, and spokesman Andy Stone confirmed that they were violating Facebook policies.

"We prohibit human exploitationSaid Stone. "We have been fighting human trafficking on our platform for many years and our goal remains to prevent anyone seeking to exploit others by using our platform".

The above became known to CNN through the examination of internal Facebook documents that were recently leaked to the media and to Congress by whistleblower, Frances Haugen. In addition to information on human trafficking content, the documents also speak to the company's approach to misinformation and hate speech, internal research on algorithms, the communications related to the attack on the Capitol and others.

Regarding human trafficking, Haugen representatives wrote: “Investors would be very interested to know the truth that Facebook almost lost access to the Apple App Store due to its failure to stop human trafficking content in its products.".

Stone led CNN to one letter which Facebook sent last summer to several representatives of the United Nations, about its efforts to combat human trafficking on its platform. In the letter, the company notes that the content of domestic work "rarely reported to us by users".

"To meet these challenges… we have also developed technology that can proactively find and take action on content related to domestic work", Said Facebook in the letter. "Using it, we were able to locate and remove more than 4.000 pieces of such content in Arabic and English, from January 2020 until today".

Earlier this month, Facebook's Vice President of Communications, John Pinette, said that the presentation of just a few items from the millions of internal documents should not be enough to draw negative conclusions for the company.

See also: Survey: A large percentage of Canadians have a negative view of Facebook

How the story started with Apple

In the fall of 2019, the BBC approached Facebook about a survey it was about to publish about a illegal online shopping for home helpers - which worked in part through Instagram. In response, Facebook removed 703 Instagram profiles promoting domestic work, but "due to insufficient reporting of this behavior and the absence of preventive detection", Many other such profiles remained on the platform.

Following the publication of the BBC investigation, Apple contacted Facebook on October 23, 2019, threatening to remove its applications from the App Store, due to the hosting of content that facilitated human trafficking. In an internal document in November 2019, a Facebook employee explained the actions the company took during a week to mitigate the threat, including account removal and preventive content detection.

"Removing our applications from Apple platforms would have potentially serious consequences for the business", The document states. "To mitigate this risk, a large working group was set up around the clock to implement the response strategy.".

However, according to internal research, Facebook was aware of the existence of content promoting human trafficking even before the BBC investigation.

In March 2018, Facebook employees tagged Instagram profiles dedicated to selling domestic workers. However, no action was taken at that time to address the content, as it was deemed not to violate company policies.

Stone, a spokesman for Facebook, said there had been a policy to prevent human exploitation before but it became stricter afterwards.

Facebook human trafficking

Facebook internal documents show that the platform has started an expanded "Human Exploitation Policy”On May 29, 2019, which banned content that promoted slavery and human exploitation.

See also: YouTube: Received a lawsuit for animal abuse videos

In September 2019, a Facebook employee posted on the company's internal website a summary of a search for a human trafficking network that used Facebook applications to facilitate the sale and sexual exploitation of at least 20 potential victims. The criminal network used more than 100 fake Facebook and Instagram accounts to recruit women from various countries and used Messenger and WhatsApp to coordinate the transfer of women to Dubai, where they were forced to work in alleged "massage parlors".

The company removed all pages and accounts related to the trafficking ring, according to the report.

Facebook human trafficking: The problem continues

Recent documents show that despite Facebook's efforts to remove this content immediately, the problem still exists.

A report from January 2020 states that “the platform allows all three stages of human exploitation (recruitment, facilitation, exploitation) through complex networks“. Traffickers from "recruitment offices" of workers used "FB, IG, Pages, Messenger and WhatsApp profiles to promote victims for sale and arrange purchases, sales and other fees", Said the document for a human trafficking network that he identified.

In a February 2021 report, researchers found that hiring companies often communicated with victims via instant messaging, but seldom posted inappropriate content, making them difficult to locate.

Stone said the company has implemented interventions on the platform to remind jobseekers of their rights and has information at the Help Center for users facing trafficking content.

Source: CNN International

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