Tech giants Google, Apple and Facebook are enabling an illegal online slave market in which domestic workers are bought and sold through apps, a BBC News Arabic investigation has found.
Google and Apple have approved and provided apps used for the sale of domestic workers on their app stores, while programme-makers found hundreds of domestic workers for sale on Facebook-owned Instagram.
BBC reporters found a 16-year-old girl being offered for sale as a domestic worker on Kuwaiti app 4Sale for $3,800 (£2,934), and followed her subsequent rescue and return home to Guinea.
The undercover reporters were repeatedly urged to break Kuwait’s laws on domestic workers by keeping wages low, confiscating their passports, and denying them time off.
One seller, who told filmmakers he was a policeman, advised them the worker he was selling should have “no telephone” and should not be allowed outside.
“If Google, Apple, Facebook, or any other company is promoting apps like these… they are promoting an online slave market,” Urmila Bhoola, UN special rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, told the BBC.
“Selling people is nothing short of draconian savagery and yet why is it a modern-day practice of slavery that takes place in every corner of our world,” said leading anti-slavery lawyer Parosha Chandran.
“The business plans of enslavers and human traffickers are built not just on their own greed and their abuse of the vulnerable but on the drive for massive profits by powerful corporations across the globe,” she told City A.M.
Instagram-owner Facebook said it does not allow “content or behaviour on Instagram that may lead to human exploitation” and had banned a hashtag and accounts used for the sale of domestic workers. However, according to the BBC, hundreds of accounts selling workers are still active on the app.
Apple said: “We strictly prohibit the solicitation or promotion of illegal behavior, including human trafficking and child exploitation, in the App Store and across every part of our business”.
Google said it was “deeply troubled by the allegations, as this type of activity has no place on Google Play”.
The documentary will be available to watch on BBC News’ Youtube channel from tomorrow morning.
All images: BBC News Arabic